Murphy won’t reappoint judge who downplayed 12-year-old’s rape
A Family Court judge who shocked lawmakers and the public with an opinion that downplayed the seriousness of a 12-year-old girl's reported rape will not be reappointed to the bench, according to published reports.
The New Jersey Globe first reported this week that Gov. Phil Murphy is declining to nominate Judge Marcia Silva, denying tenure to the first-term judge appointed by then-Gov. Chris Christie. The report was confirmed by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, who told the New Jersey Law Journal that his staff had been informed by Murphy's office of his decision.
In June, a Supreme Court panel on judicial ethics declined to reprimand Silva for her 2018 opinion in which she described the girl's sexual assault as "not especially heinous or cruel" beyond her losing her virginity. Silva also argued that the girl "did not suffer any physical or emotional injuries" despite bleeding from the rape.
Silva only faced complaints about her opinion last year after New Jersey 101.5 brought her words to the public's attention as part of an award-winning series of reports that also exposed another Family Court judge who had urged leniency for an Eagle Scout accused of sharing a recording of him raping a teen girl at a party.
That judge, James Troiano, was forced into permanent retirement after dozens of lawmakers and tens of thousands of people who signed a petition called for their removal.
The public attention also prompted the state Supreme Court to implement mandatory sex-crime sensitivity training for all judges for the first time.
In the 6-4 decision that spared Silva any punishment this year, the majority on the panel took the rare step of publicly scolding a fellow judge, noting that Silva used an "inappropriate choice of words" although her "clinical, unemotional, perhaps even stoic legal evaluation" did not rise to be "gratuitously offensive."
Silva defended herself before the panel, explaining that she had not anticipated her decision to be made public and that if she had, "I certainly would have put in there what I am telling you today, which is that every rape, including statuary rape of a 12-year-old, is heinous."
Family Court matters are held in closed courtrooms and kept confidential to protect the privacy of juvenile offenders. Silva's decision became a public record, however, after the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office appealed her decision denying their request to try the teenage suspect in that case as an adult.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-775-9793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.