NJ Judge Suspended After Telling Sexual Assault Survivor “To Close Her Legs”

Ocean County CourthouseJames Welsh / CC-BY-3.0 / Flickr

Judge John Russo: “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”

According to CTV News, an ethics committee has recommended that a New Jersey judge be put on a three-month suspension without pay. The judge told a woman she could “close your legs” in order to prevent sexual assault.

The recommendation was released to the New Jersey state Supreme Court on Wednesday for the case of Superior Court Judge John Russo. Russo sits on the bench in Ocean County and has been on administrative leave since 2017.

In 2016, the woman in question was seeking a restraining order against a man who sexually assaulted her. When she appeared before Russo and described the encounter, Russo asked, “Do you know how to stop somebody from having intercourse with you?”

The woman said she did, and one way to do so would be to run away. Russo said, “Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?”

Russo says he did not violate judicial rules and was only seeking more information, not trying to humiliate the woman.

The panel wrote that Russo’s conduct “was not only discourteous and inappropriate, but also egregious given the potential for those questions to re-victimize the plaintiff.”

The panel recommends Russo attend training on “appropriate courtroom demeanor” alongside his suspension.

A final hearing on the matter will take place in July.

Read the full story here.