A New Jersey judge who asked an alleged female rape victim if she could have closed her legs to stop the assault has been recommended for a three-month suspension without pay, NJ.com reported Thursday.
The state’s Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct recommended Superior Court Judge John Russo Jr. for the suspension in a 45-page report.
The panel excoriated Russo’s behavior and said it demonstrated “an emotional immaturity wholly unbefitting the judicial office and incompatible with the decorum expected of every jurist.”
The nine-member review panel could not agree on whether the suspension should be six months or three.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has set a hearing to make a final ruling on July 9.
In 2016, Russo asked a woman who was seeking a restraining order if she kept her legs closed in order to prevent an alleged sexual assault.
The victim claimed during the hearing that a man verbally and physically abused her, threatened to burn her house down, stole from her, threatened to take her daughter away and forced her to have sex with him against her will, reports BuzzFeed News.
According to a court transcript of the proceedings, Russo asked the woman if she knew how to “stop somebody from having intercourse with you.”
The woman said she would try to physically harm her attacker, tell them no or try to run away.
“Anything else?” asked the family court judge.
“I — that’s all I know,” the woman said.
“Block your body parts?” Russo asked. “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”
Russo argued in a court filing last month that the complaint contained factual inaccuracies and that his comment did not accurately reflect how he handled the matter during the hearing.
The Hill reports:
Russo has been on paid administrative leave since May 2017 before returning to work at a different court earlier this year, Ashbury Park Press reported. His salary at the time of his removal was $165,000 a year, but was increased to $173,000 when all judges were granted raises on July 1, the outlet reported.
Three other incidents of alleged misconduct were recorded in the complaint against the judge.
Russo is accused of trying to use his judicial office to influence scheduling of a personal legal matter, the Asbury Park Press reported in 2018. Russo additionally is accused of failing to rescue himself from a spousal support case between a couple he knew. The complaint also claims that Russo maintained improper communications with only one of two parties in a paternity matter. Russo also faces a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed in March from a former law clerk, NJ.com reported.