Phil Murphy could name Republican to replace disgraced former Superior Court Judge

MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP, NJ – Firebrand Republican Superior Court Judge John Russo’s 7-year term is expiring a year after he was removed from the bench for telling a rape victim she should have closed her legs. The former Republican mayor of Toms River was kicked from the bench in May of 2020.

Now, with his term expiring, Governor Phil Murphy is seeking to fill Russo’s seat with another Ocean County Republican Mayor, Ken Palmer of Manchester Township.

A notice of intention was filed on June 10th and received by the state on June 17th. Now, Palmer will have to be confirmed by the majority Democrat New Jersey Senate.

Russo was appointed to the court in 2015 and in 2017 made headlines when he threw a file at his law clerk. In 2016, he was presiding over a domestic violence case when he asked a woman, a rape victim if she knew how to prevent herself from being raped, saying the answer was to keep her legs closed.

This came after the father of her child allegedly beat her, raped her and threatened to burn down her house.

“Block your body parts? Close your legs? Call the police? Did you do any of those things?” he asked the victim. He later dismissed the claim and said the woman’s testimony was not credible.

Later, Russo bragged about his comments in court with staffers. He was subsequently removed from the bench after Supreme Court Justice Stuart Rabner deemed him unfit to continue serving as a judge in future matters.

“The series of ethical failures that respondent committed are not errors of law, innocent missteps, or isolated words taken out of context. Viewed as a whole, they are flagrant and serious acts of misconduct,” Rabner wrote in his final decision.

Palmer is hoping to restore credibility back to the seat once occupied by Russo. He is the founding attorney and member of the Law Offices of Kenneth T Palmer, PC. After graduating Tulane Law School in 1997, Ken accepted a judicial clerkship with the Honorable Donald F. Campbell, J.S.C. in Ocean County New Jersey. Following the one-year clerkship, Ken spent the next 6 years as an associate attorney at the law firm of Finley & Buckley, PC in Atlanta, Georgia. Then in 2004, Ken moved back to New Jersey to be with his family and opened the Law Offices of Kenneth T. Palmer PC.

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