NEWARK, N. J. – A judicial council accused a New Jersey court of breaking the rules of the code of conduct when he asked a woman during a court hearing where she tried to close her legs to prevent an alleged sexual assault.
State Superior Court Judge John Russo made the comment during a 2016 hearing on a restraining order the woman was looking at a man she accused of forcing her to have sex.
According to a transcript included in the complaint, when the woman describes her encounter with the man, Russo asked her, “do you know how to stop someone from having sexual intercourse with you?”
When the woman replied in the affirmative and said: one method would be to walk away, Russo continued, “Close your legs? Call the police? You have one of these things?”
The complaint of this week, alleged Russo “battered the victim.”
The panel also accused him of other instances of the violation of the rules on judicial behavior, including the decision on a maintenance case in which Russo acknowledged that he knew 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 child support. Russo eventually reduced that to $300.
Russo’s lawyer said Wednesday the court looks forward to a hearing on the matter.
“Judge Russo is looking forward to a public hearing where he will be able to respond to the accusations against him,” attorney David Corrigan said. “We have respect for the process and the advisory committee on judicial conduct, and therefore cannot comment further.”
Corrigan said he has 20 days to respond to the complaint, and a hearing likely would not take place for several months.
Russo, who is assigned to Ocean County, is on paid administrative leave since last year as a result of a separate issue.