6,240,000 pageviews


Friday, May 20, 2022

Removing Judge John F. Russo

     John F. Russo, at age 34, was admitted to the New Jersey Bar Association in 1997. In 2009 he became an administrative law judge, a position he held until 2015 when he was sworn in as an Ocean County Superior Court Judge.

     In 2017, after Judge Russo asked a testifying rape victim if she knew how to prevent sexual intercourse by closing her legs, Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch suspended him from the bench. Once re-instated, Judge Russo's professional behavior continued to draw criticism.

     In August 2018, based on several complaints, the Supreme Court of New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct charged Judge Russo with four counts of misconduct. He stood accused of asking court staff members to do him personal favors; asking preferential scheduling treatment for his son's child custody case; and refusing to recuse himself from a high school classmate's child support case.

     The most serious misconduct allegation against Judge Russo pertained to his asking an alleged rape victim, during cross-examination, if she had tried to close her legs to prevent the assault. The fact he had asked this question to another rape victim a year earlier made this complaint all the more disturbing.

     At his November 2018 disciplinary hearing in Trenton, New Jersey regarding the question he had asked the rape victim, Judge Russo claimed he was simply trying to help a "demoralized witness get re-engaged in the hearing."

     On May 26, 2020, justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court voted unanimously to permanently remove the 57-year-old judge from the bench. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner in his rationale for the decision wrote that Russo's rape case question was "neither appropriate nor tasteful. No witness, alleged victim, or litigant should be treated that way in a court of law. The question also shamed the alleged victim by intolerably suggesting she was to blame."

     Chief Justice Rabner, regarding Russo's judicial behavior in general, wrote: "His conduct breached the public trust. His pattern of misconduct and unethical behavior not only undermined several court proceedings but also impaired his integrity and the judiciary's. His overall behavior reflects a lack of probity [trustworthiness] and fitness to serve as a judge."

1 comment: