New Jersey judge faces suspension for asking alleged rape victim if she closed her legs

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A New Jersey judge has been recommended for a three-month suspension without pay after he asked a woman who said she was a victim of rape if she could have closed her legs to stop the assault, reported Thursday.

The state’s Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct recommended the suspension in a 45-page report detailing Superior Court Judge John Russo Jr.’s conduct toward the woman.

{mosads}The panel criticized Russo’s behavior and said it demonstrated “an emotional immaturity wholly unbefitting the judicial office and incompatible with the decorum expected of every jurist.” 

The nine-member review panel reportedly disagreed on whether the suspension should be six months or three. The New Jersey Supreme Court has set a hearing to make a final ruling on July 9.

The recommended suspension comes after Russo in 2016 asked a woman who was seeking a restraining order if she kept her legs closed in order to prevent an alleged sexual assault.

The victim claimed during the hearing that a man physically and verbally abused her, threatened to burn her house down, stole from her, threatened to take her daughter away and forced her to have sex with him against her will, according to a BuzzFeed report.

Russo is quoted in the court transcript as asking the woman if she knew how to “stop somebody from having intercourse with you.”

The woman said she would try to physically harm her attacker, tell them no or try to flee.

“Anything else?” Russo asked in her the transcript obtained by

“I — that’s all I know,” the woman said.

“Block your body parts?” Russo said. “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”

Russo, a family court judge, argued in a court filing last month that the complaint contained factual inaccuracies.

He said his comment did not accurately reflect how he handled the matter during the hearing, reported.

Russo has been on paid administrative leave since May 2017 before returning to work at a different court earlier this year, Ashbury Park Press reported. His salary at the time of his removal was $165,000 a year, but was increased to $173,000 when all judges were granted raises on July 1, the outlet reported. 

Three other incidents of alleged misconduct were recorded in the complaint against the judge.

Russo is accused of trying to use his judicial office to influence scheduling of a personal legal matter, the Asbury Park Press reported in 2018. Russo additionally is accused of failing to rescue himself from a spousal support case between a couple he knew.

The complaint also claims that Russo maintained improper communications with only one of two parties in a paternity matter.

Russo also faces a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed in March from a former law clerk, reported.

The Hill has reached out to Russo’s attorney for comment.

–Updated at 2:35 p.m.

Tags Judge judicial conduct rape victim suspension without pay

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