Judge in New Jersey repeatedly asks rape victim if she ‘closed her legs’

'This conduct constitutes a significant departure from the courtroom demeanour expected'

Chris Riotta
New York
Friday 05 April 2019 23:39
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A judge could face a months-long suspension after repeatedly questioning a female rape victim about what she did to prevent her assault during a case in 2016.

A judicial conduct advisory committee reprimanded Superior Court Judge John Russo for the “egregious” remarks he made three years ago, in which he asked a woman: “Do you know how to stop somebody from having interpose with you?”

“Close your legs?” he continued. “Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”

The judge also repeatedly asked whether the victim attempted to “block” the assailant.

The advisory committee found the New Jersey judge displayed behaviour that was “not only discourteous and inappropriate, but also egregious given the potential for those questions to re-victimize the plaintiff”.

The committee recommended a suspension for the judge spanning three months without pay.

The judge should also be forced to receive training on “appropriate courtroom demeanour,” the committee wrote in its review.

“This conduct constitutes a significant departure from the courtroom demeanour expected of jurists and impugns [the judge’s] integrity and most notably that of the judiciary,” the committee added.

The woman being questioned by the judge was seeking a restraining order against the father of her child, who she claimed had raped her.

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The judge told the committee he was asking about her response to the attack as part of an effort to “demonstrate the element of force or coercion used during the assault”.

He added that he was attempting to “aid the plaintiff in recounting a traumatic event”.

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