The New Jersey Supreme Court initiated removal proceedings against Superior Court Judge John Russo, who asked a rape victim whether she attempted to close her legs to fend off her attacker.
Though the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct recommended Russo be suspended from the bench for three months, the court “determined it is necessary under the circumstances to consider the full quantum of possible discipline, including removal from judicial office.”
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court filed documents beginning the removal proceedings and ordering Russo to show cause as to why he should not be stripped from the bench.
Russo has until Aug. 19 to provide the court with an answer to the removal complaint. The judge has also been suspended without pay pending the conclusion of the removal proceedings.
“Sexual assault is an act of violence. It terrorizes, degrades, and induces fear in victims,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said. “Without question, it is a most serious matter in which fault lies solely with the perpetrator, not the victim. And our State has a strong interest in protecting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.”
Russo was the first of three New Jersey judges to come under fire for comments made during sexual assault hearings.
State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) had previously called for Russo’s resignation or removal.
The judge is also facing a sexual harassment suit from his former law clerk.
Valisha Desir has accused Russo of standing uncomfortable close to her despite entreaties not to do so, spreading his legs and repeatedly telling her to come closer then ordering her out of his office when she refused and throwing a probation file at her.
Judge James Troiano, who refused to try as an adult a 16-year-old boy accused of raping 16-year-old girl and sending a videotape of the assault to his friends as an adult over worries that that doing so would imperil the alleged rapist’s future, has requested an end to his service as a judge.
The move is effectively a resignation.
Judge Marcia Silva refused to try a 16-year-old boy accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl as an adult, ruling that the victim suffered no emotional, mental or physical harm past the loss of her virginity.
A group of Monmouth County legislators has filed a complaint against Silva, and a growing number of legislators are voicing support for her removal.Russo Removal Complaint
Russo Order to Show Cause