With one stunning comment, a Southern California judge delivered an astonishing remark about rape victims everywhere. Orange County, California Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson, a former prosecutor in the Orange County district attorney’s sex crimes unit, made the following comment at a 2008 sex crime sentencing:
I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case
although the Associated Press reported that the man Judge Johnson was sentencing had “threatened to mutilate the face and genitals of his ex-girlfriend with a heated screwdriver, beat her with a metal baton and made other violent threats before committing rape, forced oral copulation, and other crimes.”
While reminiscent of Rep. Todd Akin’s comments during the election, coming from a judge who presides over rape cases, this glimpse into this judge’s beliefs is highly concerning. Even more concerning is the response by the California Commission on Judicial Performance, which imposed merely a “public admonishment”:
In the commission’s view, the judge’s remarks reflected outdated, biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not ‘put up a fight.’ Such comments cannot help but diminish public confidence and trust in the impartiality of the judiciary.
But is this disciplinary sanction enough and is the Commission ignoring what might be a larger problem? Do Judge Johnson’s “remarks” disclose his true beliefs and values? And could these beliefs and values be influencing all of the judge’s rulings and decisions?
Even had Rep. Akin been elected, he would have been one of 100 senators, but trial judges rule alone. Even in cases tried to juries, the judges can have tremendous influence by their rulings and demeanor toward one side or the other. Such potentially far-reaching influence should not be ignored.
In all cases, and especially in cases as important as rape, judges must be impartial. When it comes to light that a judge is not, should that judge be allowed to preside?
You’ve got options. The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field. Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970.