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Superior Court Judge John Russo, right, attends a New Jersey Supreme Court disciplinary hearing on June 9, 2019.

Supreme Court seeks to remove Judge John Russo

Judge asked alleged rape victim if she attempted to close her legs to fend off her attacker

By David Wildstein, January 28 2020 8:20 pm

A Superior Court judge who asked an alleged rape victim if she attempted to close her legs to fend off her attacker is being recommended for removal.

The New Jersey Supreme Court today moved to oust Judge John Russo for comments made to a woman who was seeking a restraining order against her alleged attacker.

The state’s top court began removal proceedings in July after the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct recommended Russo be suspended from the bench for three months

An oral argument to force Russo out is scheduled for March 30-31.

While other political leaders sidestepped the issue, State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) called for Russo’s resignation.

“His comments were beyond disgraceful,” Gopal told the New Jersey Globe in July 2019. “It shows a 1920s-mentality, if anything.”

Former Gov. Chris Christie appointed Russo, a former Toms River mayor, to the bench in 2015. His term expires in 2022, meaning Murphy will only be able to replace him if he wins a second term in 2021.

Russo’s comments to the alleged rape victim are not the first to land him in hot water.

In 2016, Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch Ford admonished Russo for creating a “potential hostile work environment” related to his treatment of his law clerks.

One of his former clerks, Valisha Desir, is suing Russo for, among other things, sexual harassment.

The judge was placed on paid administrative leave for 20 months, starting in April 2017, but was reinstated late last year.

Russo 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.

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