Why N.J. Judges Are Getting Sexual Assault Training

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 30, 2019 3:00 PM

One New Jersey judge asked a woman if she tried to block her "body parts" and close her legs during a sexual assault. Another declined to try a 16-year-old accused of raping a 12-year-old as an adult, claiming the alleged crime was "not an especially heinous or cruel," and stating "beyond losing her virginity, the State did not claim that the victim suffered any further injuries, either physical, mental or emotional."

And yet another, as you've probably heard by now, showed leniency to a 16-year-old rapist because he came from a "good family" and attended "an excellent school." (That same 16-year-old sent a video of the sexual assault at a house party to his friends with the caption: "When your first time having sex was rape.")

Now all New Jersey judges will undergo enhanced training on sexual assault, domestic violence, implicit bias, and diversity, according to the state's Administrative Office of the Courts.

Judgment Day

Supreme Court justices, Appellate Division, Superior Court judges, and even Tax Court judges are all required to attend the mandatory full-day educational conference, according to Glen Grant, acting administrative director of New Jersey courts:

These statewide education conferences will serve to enhance understanding of the complexities and nuances associated with sexual assault, sex offenses, and domestic violence matters and to raise awareness of the impact of implicit bias on decision-making, while providing skills for judges to recognize and respond.to their preconceptions. The programs also will train judges in effective communication skills that will aid them in delivering clear decisions that are rooted in the law, respectful of victims, and understandable to the public while protecting the rights of the accused.

New Jersey will also update its existing training programs to include courses on sexual assault and sexual violence, domestic violence, juvenile matters, and judicial ethics and demeanor.

Re-Victimization

Judge James Troiano, the judge from the "good family" comments, has already resigned. (Troiano, who had already retired but filled in part-time on the bench, also questioned whether the victim and her family had understood "the devastating effect" that pressing charges would have on the alleged rapist.)

And the New Jersey Supreme Court has started removal proceedings against Judge John Russo, the one who asked if a victim had closed her legs. The third judge, Marcia Silva, is not currently facing any disciplinary action after her "losing her virginity" comments, and has thus far ignored calls for her resignation.

"Sexual assault is an act of violence," New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said in a statement. "It terrorizes, degrades, and induces fear in victims. Without question, it is a most serious matter in which fault lies solely with the perpetrator, not the victim ... Every effort must be made not to revictimize a victim."

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