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State Sen. Vin Gopal. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Gopal praises Rabner for bid to remove Russo

Senator: ‘Survivors of sexual assault deserve judges who will hear them, not favor their alleged attackers

By David Wildstein, July 17 2019 6:22 pm

Senator Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), who had led the charge to remove Superior Court Judge John Russo for asking a woman if she tried to hold her legs together to avoid being raped, today applauded the New Jersey Courts for beginning a process to remove Russo from office rather than just suspend him.

“Chief Justice Rabner made the right call in taking clear and positive action toward the removal of Judge Russo for his unacceptable comments toward a survivor of sexual assault,” Gopal said. “It was the right decision to pursue full removal from the bench, rather than a temporary suspension as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.

Gopal also said he was pleased that James Troiano, a Monmouth County Family Court Judge under fire for his handling of a rape case involving two 16-year-olds has agreed to step down.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve judges who will hear them, not favor their alleged attackers,” said Gopal.  “I want to recognize every advocate and survivor who spoke out against these abominable comments – because of your leadership, we have made it clear that those sentiments have no place in New Jersey’s courts.”

Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Freehold) and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune) were among a group of legislators who had called from Troiano’s resignation or removal.

“This is an important step forward for survivors of sexual assault across New Jersey, and a clear signal that their voices matter,” said Downey. “If these judges had been permitted to continue making decisions from the bench, it would create a chilling effect discouraging survivors of sexual assault from coming forward with their stories.”

Downey said that while the removal of Russo and Troiano makes “makes it clear that New Jersey’s justice system cannot and will not be a home for those who make excuses for rape.”

“Thank you to every survivor and outspoken advocate who has had the courage to step forward on these cases – your efforts have made our justice system fairer, more transparent, and more responsive to the needs of survivors,” Downey said.

Houghtaling said that the removal of Russo and Troiano was “essential if we want to preserve the integrity of our judicial system.”

“Judge Troiano made the right decision in resigning, and I hope that Judge Russo recognizes the importance in doing the same,” Houghtaling said.  “Survivors of sexual assault need to have faith in our courts, and today’s decisions will go a long way toward restoring the trust that these judges lost.”

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