State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) says that Judge John Russo should not remain on the bench, even though he acknowledged he was wrong to ask an alleged victim if she tried to avoid being raped by keeping her legs closed.
“I’m glad to see Judge Russo admit his wrongdoing in this case, but we cannot let his or any similar case slide,” said Gopal, who called for Russo’s resignation earlier this year. “We need to root out this dangerous and harmful bias from our judicial system in order to truly support survivors in their path towards justice and recovery.”
Gopal says that survivors of sexual assault “need to be confident that our judicial system will hear them.”
“I thank the advocates on the ground who work tirelessly everyday to support survivors and work to ensure that officials are held accountable for their words and actions,” Gopal said. “It’s time to remove judges who have lost that trust and build a system that survivors can have faith in.”
The New Jersey Supreme Court heard Russo’s disciplinary case on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct split on their recommendation for Russo’s penalty: five members said a three-month suspension, and four wanted six-month suspension.
There is was no recommendation to remove him from the bench, and Russo’s attorney says the judge “wishes to return to hearing cases.”
Russo, the son of former Senate President John F. Russo (D-Toms River), was elected to the Toms River council – at the time, it was the Dover Township Committee – as a Democrat but switched parties and swung control of local government to the Republicans. He is also the brother-in-law of State Sen. Robert Singer (R-Lakewood).
Gov. Chris Christie nominated him to the Superior Court in 2015.
It is not immediately clear whether Gov. Phil Murphy will reappoint him for tenure when his current term ends in December 2022. It’s also not clear whether the Senate would vote to confirm him.
If Russo does get tenure, he can remain on the bench until he turns 70 in 2032.