Judge apologizes for calling woman 'little blond honey ... too dumb to leave' alleged abuser
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A judge in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is apologizing after a Pennsylvania appeals court said his “belittling” remarks at a protection-from-abuse hearing could discourage victims from seeking help from the courts.
Judge Alan Rubenstein said he made the remarks because he was “outraged and angry” that the woman seeking protection had endured life-threatening abuse for 17 years, the Bucks County Courier Times reports. But he acknowledged that his remarks were “more than inappropriate” and “absolutely wrong.”
Law.com also has coverage.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court criticized Rubenstein in an Aug. 7 opinion. The court raised the issue, even though neither party had done so on appeal.
Rubenstein had made the remarks at the conclusion of a hearing in which he granted a protection order. According to the superior court, Rubenstein had told the woman, “Little blond honey, you’re too dumb to leave. She tells me she was putting money in her 401(k) so she can leave. That’s a bunch of crap. Keep on doing that; that 401(k) money will pay for your funeral. How can you stay with this knucklehead? You have no self-respect.”
The judge had also criticized the alleged abuser.
“So he’s a real tough guy when it comes to beating on women,” Rubenstein said. “We’ve seen guys like that. They have other inadequacies. I’m not going to address them because I’m not an anatomist, but it seems to follow.”
The superior court said it found Rubenstein’s remarks “shocking, sexist, offensive and egregiously inappropriate.” The remarks “evince a fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamics of intimate partner violence,” the court said.
The court also said the remarks were “largely inaccurate” because the woman had been separated from the man since 2017. During the separation, the woman obtained sole legal custody of their children after an incident that happened while the daughter was at the man’s house. The daughter testified that her father had assaulted his girlfriend.
After the separation, the abuser “inundated her with over 560 text messages in one week, including links to songs with violent lyrics,” according to the opinion. He also purchased a tracking device that was attached to the woman’s vehicle. After the custody hearing, he posted a threatening message on Facebook.
The woman’s lawyer, Jan Grossman, told the Bucks County Courier Times that his client didn’t like Rubenstein’s remarks, but she thought that it was a “generational thing.” Rubenstein is in his 70s.
Grossman said his client isn’t angry and is “extraordinarily grateful” for the protection he granted.
“Everybody is up in arms about what the judge said, but 95% of his ruling was a fantastic protection for women and victims,” Grossman told the Bucks County Courier Times.
Rubenstein had granted the protection-from-abuse order and ruled sua sponte that the father had violated an agreement giving custody to the mother when he texted his daughter 40 times one evening. Rubenstein said the father should remain in jail, for up to six months, until he explained in writing how he would obey the custody order.
The protection order also barred the father from harassing the woman’s boyfriend, her children, and all the employees of the law firm representing the woman.
The superior court upheld the protection order but said the father had not been given adequate due process when Rubenstein sent him to jail.