TOMS RIVER, NJ – John Russo’s status as a former Ocean County Superior Court judge is now official. This week, New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Stuart J. Rabner sealed the deal for the Ocean County lawyer who made light of a rape victim’s ordeal in court. Russo was previously suspended by the court for asking a rape victim if she could have closed her legs, then joked with court staff about the incident afterward.
The decision by the state Supreme Court against Russo was unanimous, citing Russo had committed repeated and serious acts of misconduct while serving as a judge in Ocean County. ““No reasonable victim could have confidence in a court system were he to preside over those kinds of cases again,” Justice Rabner said.
According to the court transcript, Russo was questioning a rape victim about her alleged assault when he said, “Do you know to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?”
The woman responded with a logical answer, “Run away or try to get away.”
“Block your body parts? Close Your Legs?” Russo asked the victim. “Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”
“Judges set the tone for a courtroom. Especially when it comes to sensitive matters like domestic violence and sexual assault, that tone must be dignified, solemn, and respectful, not demeaning or sophomoric. Judge Russo failed in that regard,” Justice Rabner said in his decision.