WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A judge in New Jersey suggested to an alleged female victim of sexual assault to close her legs as a way to prevent the assault.
- An ethics task force has recommended a 3-month suspension without pay and that the judge must take compulsory training about proper demeanor in the courtroom.
- Judge John Russo of Ocean County argued that he did not mean to cause the woman further humiliation, instead, he claimed to have been fishing for more information.
A recommendation to suspend a New Jersey judge for 3 months without pay, for telling a woman to “close her legs” to halt a sexual assault, had been released and forwarded to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday by an ethics committee. This pertains to the case of Superior Court Judge John Russo of Ocean County in southern New Jersey, who has been on administrative leave since 2017.
In 2016, a woman appeared in Russo’s court seeking a restraining order against a man whom she claimed to have sexually molested her.
Court transcripts of the exchange stated that when the woman described her encounter with the man, Russo asked, “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?”
As the woman responded affirmatively and said one option is to run away, Russo continued her answer by saying, “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”
Russo had disagreed that he violated judicial rules during court filings and hearings. He said it wasn’t his intention to humiliate the woman rather he was just seeking more information.
However, the panel wrote that Russo’s conduct “was not only discourteous and inappropriate but also egregious given the potential for those questions to re-victimize the plaintiff.”
Aside from the suspension, the committee also recommended that Russo is required to attend training on “appropriate courtroom demeanor.”
The panel also deduced that other violations of rules of conduct have been committed by Russo including a ruling on an alimony case where he admitted knowing both parties.
According to the complaint in that case, Russo overturned another judge’s order by reducing the back alimony of the man issued a bench warrant from $10,000 to $300.
A message requesting for comments on the panels’ recommendations were left with Russo’s attorney. Russo is given the chance to respond to the recommendations prior to a final hearing on the matter that takes place in July.
Source: CBS News