NJ judicial board has accused superior court judge John F. Russo [photo], of mistreating a victim whom he asked if she knew crossing her legs could have stopped the assault
A judicial board accused a New Jersey judge of violating rules of conduct as a jurist.
One of the allegations said Russo was discourteous to and mistreated an alleged rape victim.
State Superior Court Judge John Russo allegedly, asked a woman during a court hearing if she tried closing her legs to prevent an alleged sexual assault. Judge Russo made the comment during a 2016 hearing on a restraining order the woman was seeking against a man she accused of forcing her to have sex.
According to a transcript contained in the complaint, when the woman described her encounter with the man, Russo asked her, “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?”
When the woman answered affirmatively and said one method would be to run away, Russo continued, “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”
The complaint filed this week alleged Russo “mistreated the victim.”
The panel also accused him of other instances of violating rules on judicial conduct, including the attempted to use his judicial office to influence scheduling of a personal legal matter he had pending in Burlington County.
A third allegation said Russo failed to recuse himself in a spousal support matter involving a couple with which he acknowledged personally knowing both parties. In that case, according to the complaint, Russo reversed an order by another judge who had issued a bench warrant for the man unless he paid $10,000 in back alimony. Russo ultimately reduced that to $300.
The final allegation accused Russo as presiding judge, of improperly having communications with only one of two parties to a paternity matter before him.
Ocean County Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch Ford has barred Russo from judicial duties until he passes a psychological evaluation.
Russo’s attorney David F. Corrigan, said Wednesday the judge looks forward to a hearing on the matter: “We are pleased that Judge Russo will have a public hearing regarding the allegations which have been raised against him,” said Corrigan.
“We have respect for both the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, as well as the process,” Corrigan said. “Therefore, we don’t believe it would be appropriate to have any further comment, pending the hearing.”
Corrigan said, adding that his client has 20 days to respond to the complaint before a public hearing is scheduled. He remains on paid administrative leave, Corrigan said.
Russo, who is assigned to Ocean County, has been on paid administrative leave since last year stemming from a separate matter.
The Asbury Park Press reports that the embattled judge was barred from his judicial duties last April and was later placed on paid administrative leave from his $165,000-a-year seat on the bench after he refused to submit to a mental-health evaluation ordered by Ocean County Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch Ford.
Ford revealed in a court filing last year that among the reasons she barred Russo from the bench was because his law clerk claimed he threw a file at her, as much as his shabby treatment of litigants.
After Ford barred him from the bench, Russo filed a workplace discrimination lawsuit in federal court against Judge Ford and another Superior Court Judge, Madelin F. Einbinder.