A New Jersey judge under fire for advising a domestic violence suspect of alternative ways to let women know men are ‘in control’, besides using his fists, has apologized and admitted his comments were ‘undeniably misguided.’
Acting Newark Municipal Court Judge Steven Brister made the controversial outburst while hearing a domestic violence case back in February, before the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC) filed a formal complaint against him in October.
‘We get frustrated and … in our frustration you can’t come at them like [you’re] Mike Tyson and they’re in the ring like they’re Leon Spinks. You can’t do it. You can’t punch, you can’t hit,’ Brister told the defendant, according to a transcript of the hearing.
‘At best, you treat as if you’re holding a feather, just to let them know you’re the man and you’re in control.’
Upon reflection, Brister has since recanted the statement and apologised, saying that ‘the best analysis is that the comments were well-meaning but undeniably misguided’.
Acting Newark Municipal Court Judge Steven Brister made the controversial outburst while hearing a domestic violence case back in February, before the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct (ACJC) filed a formal complaint against him in October
Judge Steven Brister’s comments in full:
‘I’m going to tell you what I tell a lot of people with this same charge. Because all of these charges are the same.
We, as men, and I can speak to you as a man, [because] I am a man as well. We get frustrated with the women human beings. Because we try to straighten out a creation, [because] they [were] created with a curve.
But we as men, we think we [are] above creation and we can straighten it out. No matter how much you try, or how you try to straighten out that curve, you can never do it.
We get frustrated and then but, in our frustration, you can’t come at them like you [are] Mike Tyson and they’re in the ring like they’re Leon Spinks. You can’t do it. You can’t punch, you can’t hit.
At best, you treat as if you’re holding a feather, just to let them know you’re the man and you’re in control. But in each of these five complaints it said you went at them like Mike Tyson.’
However, at the time, Brister characterized the unsolicited advice as something he tells ‘a lot of people with this same charge’.
He also told the defendant in the February 21 hearing that men often become angry with women because they were ‘created with a curve’.
‘No matter how much you try, or how you try to straighten out that curve, you can never do it,’ he continued.
During a July 30 hearing with the ACJC, Brister was asked to explain what he meant by the comments.
Brister said that while serving as an altar boy he was taught the biblical story of how Eve was created from ‘the curved rib of Adam’ – scripture he shared with the defendant.
‘So if you believe in a creation from a higher power, then that curve is the creation of the woman with the curve of the rib of Adam,’ he sought to clarify.
Regardless, in their complaint, the ACJC wrote that Brister’s reference to women and the manner in which men should treat them was ‘inappropriate, disparaging to women and had the potential to create the appearance of a gender bias.’
In their complaint, the ACJC wrote that Brister’s reference to women and the manner in which men should treat them was ‘inappropriate, disparaging to women and had the potential to create the appearance of a gender bias’ (pictured: Newark Municipal Court, where Britster serves as a judge)
Therefore, the committee accused Brister of violating several canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct which ‘requires judges to decide cases according to the law and facts and not permit family, social, political, financial or other relationships or interests to influence their judicial conduct or judgment’ – including religion, the complaint says.
In response, Brister admitted to ‘mistakenly’ assimilating his personal religious beliefs into his judicial role, subsequently failing to ‘conform his conduct to the high standards of conduct expected of judges and impugned the integrity of the Judiciary.’
A disciplinary hearing is expected to be scheduled for Brister, which could result in him being publicly censured, admonished, reprimanded, suspended or removed from the bench entirely, according to the New Jersey Courts website.
Brister is a member of the Bar of the State of New Jersey and was admitted to the practice of law in 1985. He currently serves as a judge in courts in East Orange and Newark.
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