Judge John F. Russo Jr., a New Jersey Superior Court judge has been removed from his position as a Judge after several misconduct claims, including asking a rape victim ‘if she closed her legs’
Judge John F. Russo Jr. was ordered removed from his position by the New Jersey Supreme Court this week, according to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner who made the announcement in a court opinion.
In a court opinion filed May 26 but made available to the media on Thursday, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner of the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered Judge John F. Russo Jr. to be removed from his position effective immediately and permanently banning Russo from holding a judicial office in New Jersey.
Russo was removed after a complaint was filed in August 2018 by the Supreme Court of New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, alleging four counts of misconduct both in the courtroom and by asking personal favors from court staff.
Russo became an attorney in 1997, where he served as a law clerk in the Superior Court before going into private practice. He had six years of experience as an administrative law judge before he was appointed to the Superior Court in December 2015.
In one of the misconduct claims, the complaint said Russo questioned a woman about how she tried to stop an alleged sexual assault, including if she “tried to “block [her] body parts” or “close her legs,” after she fully described her sexual assault allegations to the court in which he was presiding.
“His conduct breached the public’s trust,” Rabner said in the opinion.
“His pattern of misconduct and unethical behavior not only undermined the integrity of different court proceedings but also impaired his integrity and the Judiciary’s. His overall behavior reflects a lack of probity and fitness to serve as a judge.”
According to the order, Russo “claimed he was trying to help a ‘demoralized’ witness on cross-examination and ‘get her re-engaged in the hearing.'”
In the court’s opinion, Rabner responded to this claim saying that not only did the witness testify clearly, but that Russo’s questioning were not relevant to the case at hand saying they were “neither appropriate nor tasteful.”
Rabner also said that Russo had a nine-minute phone exchange in front of a crowded courtroom with a woman who was a defendant of a paternity case.
According to Rabner, Russo called the woman, who missed her court date but she didn’t pick the call.
When the woman phoned back, the call was routed to the Russo’s courtroom.
The woman told Russo she didn’t attend because she “was very scared,” Judge Russo then requested her address to send her a paternity order, but the woman didn’t want to give her address because she was afraid for the safety of her children saying it should be sent to her legal representatives.
In response, Russo allegedly said, “he’s going to find you, ma’am. We’re all going to find you.”
Rabner while addressing Russo, described his comments as “disturbing” and “reflected poorly on his temperament.”
The other counts include when Russo declined to recuse himself from a high school classmate’s spousal support case.
The Supreme court said that they considered mitigating factors when considering Russo’s removal, including “an otherwise clean disciplinary record” while saying Russo has expressed remorse hence no need for more stringent measures against him.