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New Jersey judge regrets advice to domestic violence suspect that men are 'in control'

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DNY59/iStock(NEWARK, N.J.) — A New Jersey judge under fire for advising a domestic violence suspect of alternative ways besides using his fists to let women know men are “in control” now says his comments in court were “undeniably misguided.”

Steven Brister, an acting Newark Municipal Court judge and a part-time judge in the East Orange Municipal Court, admitted to making “gratuitous improper commentary” based on his religious beliefs while hearing a domestic violence case this year, according to his response to a complaint filed against him.

He says he has since reflected on his words and taken steps to correct his conduct.

“The best analysis is that the comments were well-meaning but undeniably misguided,” Brister says in his response to the complaint filed on Friday with the Supreme Court of New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct.

The complaint was filed against him in February, just days after he offered the unsolicited advice to a defendant facing multiple counts of domestic violence.

“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 included in the complaint. “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.”

At the time, Brister characterized the advice as something he tells “a lot of people with this same charge.”

During a July 30 hearing before the advisory committee, 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 a man,” Adam, scripture he also shared with the domestic violence defendant.

“So if you believe in the creation from a higher power, then that curve is the creation of the woman with the curve of the rib of Adam,” Brister told the committee.

The complaint, however, contends Brister violated 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,” according to the complaint.

In his response to the complaint, Judge Brister admitted he “did mistakenly assimilate his personal religious beliefs into his judicial role and failed to conform his conduct to the high standards of conduct expected of judges and impugned the integrity of the Judiciary …,” according to the complaint.

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, according to the New Jersey Courts website.

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