Lawsuit alleges former judge Rosenbaum demanded sex from secretary, complaints went ignored by court system
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges former New York State Supreme Court Justice Matthew Rosenbaum "compelled" his former secretary, the plaintiff, to have sex with him. It also alleges multiple people in multiple entities in the court system discouraged the plaintiff from complaining and or ignored her complaints.
The lawsuit alleges the sexual harassment started when Rosenbaum took office as a supreme court justice in March 2005. On page 7 of the complaint, it says, "Defendant Rosenbaum compelled Plaintiff to perform (sex act) upon him on approximately a monthly basis in 2005." The lawsuit says the acts happened in Rosenbaum’s judicial chambers and were "against the will" of the plaintiff.
Several paragraphs later, the lawsuit says Rosenbaum told the plaintiff the act "was part of her job, that he was stressed, and she was required to assist him in relieving his stress." (page 7, paragraph 27) It goes on to say "Rosenbaum also threatened Plaintiff that if she wanted to keep her job she would comply with his demands for oral sex" (page 7, paragraph 28) and, as the plaintiff was in the middle of a divorce, "that if she wanted to retain custody of her minor son, she would comply with his demands for oral sex." (page 7 paragraph 30)
An email to Rosenbaum at 11:17 a.m. Tuesday has gone unanswered. His attorney, David Rothenberg told News10NBC he is preparing for a trial beginning Wednesday and therefore has no comment. We did receive a statement from Normal Communication CEO Arnie Rothschild on behalf of Rosenbaum which reads, "Since no legal documents have been delivered to Mr. Rosenbaum, it is impossible to comment on the specifics of the suit. That said, as we have read in media reports, the allegations made involved (the plaintiff’s) period of time as an employee it would not be proper to make any comments on what appear to be employment issues."
In November 2019, Rosenbaum was re-elected to another 14-year term. However, when he was notified about a complaint to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct in December 2019, Rosenbaum resigned and did not accept the election results.
In an email, Robert Tembeckjian, chair of the judicial conduct commission wrote "The Commission’s mandate is to hold judges accountable for ethical misconduct and ensure in egregious cases that they leave the bench and never return. That is what happened with Judge Rosenbaum. He decided to resign, and we made it permanent. Statutorily, our authority ended at that point, but other agencies may investigate further and take additional action as warranted."
The lawsuit alleges the demand for sex ended in 2009 but the harassment continued until 2019 in the form of unwanted hugs, comments and demands for the plaintiff to perform personal errands for Rosenbaum (pages 8, 11, paragraphs 38, 77).
The lawsuit also names the following offices as defendants:
- Monroe County Supreme Court
- Unified Court System of the State of New York
- Office of Court Administration
- Office of the Managing Inspector General for Bias Matters
The lawsuit also names seven individuals who work in or managed those offices.
I was directed to the Office of Court Administration for comment on the entities and individuals named as defendants. In an email at 11:30 a.m., OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen wrote, "Since we haven’t been officially served, any comment at this time would be inappropriate."
The lawsuit alleges the plaintiff first requested a job change in 2007 but that went unfulfilled. It also says the plaintiff complained to Judge Ann Taddeo in May of 2007 about Rosenbaum’s "sexual demands" and the lawsuit says Taddeo told the plaintiff "there wasn’t much she (Taddeo) could do, other than conduct sexual abuse training." In the next paragraph, the lawsuit says "Defendant Taddeo also told Plaintiff that, unfortunately, women had to endure sexual harassment from male judges because there was no way to have them reprimanded." (page 9, paragraph 47).
The law clerk for Judge Taddeo said they are "not able to comment at this time."
The lawsuit said the plaintiff complained to human resources, the Office of the Inspector General for Bias Matters and Unified Court System Work Safe Office. But, according to the lawsuit, these are a sample of the responses the plaintiff received:
- In 2007, the plaintiff was told if she was filing an official complaint against Rosenbaum, they "would have no choice but to fire Plaintiff," (page 9, paragraph 50)
- In 2010, that "no one within Defendant UCS would hire her due to fear of Defendant Rosenbaum, (page 11, paragraph 73)
- In July 2019, that "they could do nothing to help her" (page 12, paragraph 83)
- In January 2020 "OIG had ‘lost’ Plaintiff’s prior complaints." (page 15, paragraph 110)
The lawsuit says "Between 2005 and 2019, Defendants ignored the sexual discrimination against Plaintiff, discouraged her from complaining about the illegal treatment she endured, and ignored the complaints Plaintiff did submit." (page 16, paragraph 129).
In December 2019, one month after winning reelection, the lawsuit says the Commission on Judicial Conduct interviewed the plaintiff.
The lawsuit says "On December 28, 2019, Plaintiff was notified by a representative of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct that Defendant Rosenbaum had agreed to resign from his judicial position, and that the resignation would end any further investigation."
I reached Lindy Korn, attorney for the plaintiff. Korn declined to answer specific questions about the lawsuit but in a brief Zoom conversation said she and her co-counsel "are very proud to represent a courageous plaintiff such as (the plaintiff) in her effort to hold the system accountable for what happened to her and the complaint speaks for itself."