TRENTON, N.J. — John F. Russo, the Superior Court judge who once asked an alleged rape victim if she kept her legs crossed. was removed Tuesday in a unanimous vote by the state Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Stuart J. Rabner wrote that Russo was permanently barred from presiding over a New Jersey courtroom because of “repeated and serious acts of misconduct,” NJ.com reported.
“His overall behavior reflects a lack of probity and fitness to serve as a judge,” Rabner wrote on behalf of the state’s highest court. “And his conduct breached the public’s trust.”
The justices had recommended Russo’s removal last summer and a three-judge advisory agreed in January, WNYW reported. Russo, 57, who appealed the decisions, was on unpaid suspension, the television station reported.
Russo’s attorney, Amelia Carolla, declined to comment Tuesday.
The panel recommended Russo’s removal for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct on at least four occasions, NJ.com reported.
The most prominent instance came in an Ocean County court in 2016, where he asked an alleged rape victim a series of questions that the state’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct termed “wholly unwarranted, discourteous and inappropriate,” the Asbury Park Press reported.
"Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?” Russo asked the woman, according to a transcript.
After the woman said “run away or try to get away,” Russo asked if there was anything else she could have done.
“Block your body parts?” Russo asked. “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”
“No reasonable victim could have confidence in a court system were he to preside over those kinds of cases again,” Rabner wrote in the Supreme Court’s opinion.
Russo was appointed as a Superior Court judge in Ocean County after serving six years as an administrative law judge, the Press reported. Accusations were first made in April 2017 when Russo was accused of throwing a file at his law clerk, the newspaper reported.
Cox Media Group