The Slatest

New Jersey Judge Faces Suspension After Asking Alleged Rape Victim if She Tried “Closing Her Legs”

A judge and a gavel.
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An advisory panel for New Jersey courts recommended a Superior Court judge be suspended without pay for asking a woman if she had tried to close her legs during her alleged rape, according to NJ.com.

John Russo Jr., a family court judge in Ocean County, New Jersey, was questioning a woman who sought a restraining order against the father of her daughter after the man had allegedly “forced her to have sex with him against her will,” according to the complaint.

“Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?” Russo asked the woman. She said she could try to tell the man no, fight him, or run away. “Run away, get away,” Russo said. “Anything else?”

“That’s all I know,” the woman answered.

“Block your body parts?”

“Yeah.”

“Close your legs?” Russo asked. “Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”

The committee found in its investigation that Russo had continued to press her on the details of her alleged sexual assault. The panel said Russo’s actions in the case indicated “an emotional immaturity wholly unbefitting the judicial office” and recommended a suspension of three months. The state Supreme Court scheduled a hearing for July to make the final ruling.

Russo has argued that the report had factual errors and didn’t accurately reflect his handling of the situation, which he said had less to do with casting doubt on the victim and more to do with “demonstrat[ing] the element of force or coercion used during the assault,” and “aid[ing] the plaintiff in recounting a traumatic event.”

The panel also found that Russo had possibly violated the Code of Judicial Conduct in three other instances, including when he tried to use his position to rearrange a personal family court matter, according to NJ.com. A former law clerk is also suing Russo for discrimination and sexual harassment.