Gov. Phil Murphy said he was deeply troubled by the comments of two New Jersey family court judges who have come under fire for their handling of sexual assault cases but stopped short of calling for their resignations.
“I’m extremely troubled by those comments,” Murphy said at a press conference following the signing of an unrelated bill. “We are and claim to be a survivor-centric state, and those comments are completely at odds with that notion, so I support an investigation by the appropriate judicial watchdog committee that exists, and I would hope that they would pursue that investigation post haste because those comments are unacceptable.”
Judge James Troiano refused to try 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. In his decision, Troiano said he worried that doing so would imperil the alleged rapist’s future.
An appellate panel have overturned Troiano’s decision, as well as one made by Judge Marcia Silva.
Silva refused to try a 16-year-old boy accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl, ruling that the victim suffered no emotional, mental or physical harm past the loss of her virginity.
New Jersey 101.5 first reported on the appellate court’s decisions.
Some of the state’s legislators have taken a harder stance than Murphy.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and a group of Middlesex County Senators have called for the judges to be removed.
“There is no space for judges of this character,” Weinberg said.
Earlier this year, Murphy also stopped short of calling for the resignation of Superior Court Judge John Russo’s resignation when he faced fire for asking a sexual assault victim if she attempted to close her legs to fend off her attacker.
State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) called for Russo’s resignation.
Then, Murphy moderated his response by citing the independence of the state’s courts.
He took a similar line Monday.
“I think you have to go through how this works, and the way it works for a judge when you make a comment like that, which is completely at odds with who we are as a state, there’s a process for that, and I strongly support that process being pursued,” Murphy said.
The state Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct recommended Russo be suspended for three months without pay.
Russo is due to appear before the New Jersey Supreme Court tomorrow to argue against his suspension.
The Middlesex County Senators — Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield), Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro), Robert Smith (D-Piscataway) and Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) — have asked the committee to investigate Silva conduct.
Troiano and Sylvia are not up for reappointment until January 2021.