ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Tuesday it has opened an investigation into claims made against former Monroe County Supreme Court Justice Matthew Rosenbaum.
A federal lawsuit shows Rosenbaum is accused of rape and forcing a female assistant to performing oral sex on him in his office multiple times over several years. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office released a statement Tuesday saying:
“In the spring of 2021, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office was notified of possible criminal conduct on the part of former New York State Supreme Court Justice Matthew Rosenbaum. The Sheriff’s Office initiated an investigation and we are currently working with the Monroe County District Attorney to complete this in depth process. The investigation is ongoing which limits our ability to comment any further. We appreciate your patience.”
Rosenbaum resigned in January of last year after being investigated for “abusive personal demands on staff” and “creating a hostile workplace environment for years.” At the time of his resignation, the specifics of those demands and how the hostile workplace was created, were unknown.
Judge Rosenbaum served as a Justice of the Supreme Court in Rochester from 2005 through 2019. He was reelected in November 2019 for a new term scheduled to commence on Jan. 1, 2020, but he vacated his office and did not return to court or perform any other duties of his position after Dec. 31, 2019 — which is when the investigation began.
A stipulation of Rosenbaum’s resignation is that he agreed to never seek or accept any judicial office at any time in the future.
In a federal lawsuit filed this month, a woman who was a secretary to Rosenbaum from 2005 through 2019 claims she was “compelled” to “perform fellatio” upon Rosenbaum approximately once per month beginning in 2005.
In the lawsuit, a woman says these acts were performed against her will, adding that Rosenbaum told the woman that these sex acts were part of her job and “required to assist him in relieving his stress.”
The lawsuit alleges that Rosenbaum threatened her employment, and also told her — while she was going through a divorce — that “if she wanted to retain custody of her minor son, she would comply with his demands for oral sex.”
While most of the dozens of sex acts alleged in the lawsuit took place in the judge’s chambers, the woman claims that Rosenbaum vaginally raped her in her home after work hours in November 2006.
In the lawsuit, the woman says Rosenbaum used demeaning terms to her, commented inappropriately on her clothing, touched and hugged her in the presence of others, and required her to perform personal errands for himself and family members during the workday.
News 8 reached out to Rosenbaum’s attorney who declined to comment when asked about the lawsuit. The Director of Public Information for the Unified Court System of New York State also had no comment.
According to the lawsuit, the woman reached out to a female clerk who previously worked for Rosenbaum about the sexual harassment who said “there was nothing” she could do because “Rosenbaum was a judge, and no one would listen to her.”
According to the legal documents, the woman reached out to human resources about the judge’s sexual demands, and was told “there wasn’t much they could do, other than conduct sexual abuse training,” adding that “unfortunately, women had to endure sexual harassment from male judges because there was no way to have them reprimanded.”
The lawsuit alleges that the woman then went to the head of human resources about Rosenbaum’s conduct, and was told that they would have no choice but to fire her if she was complaining about the judge. The head of human resources, according to the lawsuit, then gave the woman information about how to file a formal complaint with the courts’ Workforce Diversity Office, and the Office of the Special Inspector General for Bias Matters.
According to the court paperwork, the woman never received any response to the complaint of discrimination she filed in November 2007.
After the complaint was filed and no response was received, the lawsuit says the secretary went on to perform fellatio upon Rosenbaum at least 15 different times against her will in the judge’s chambers in 2008, and at least five more times in 2009.
The lawsuit says in June 2009, the woman refused the judge’s demand for oral sex and said she would no longer respond to his threats. After that, according to the court paperwork, the judge continued to touch the woman, put his arm around her, comment inappropriately on her clothing, and address her as “sweetie” and “honey.”
In addition to Rosenbaum, four separate judicial offices and departments are included in the lawsuit, as well as seven other people.
“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,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says the woman suffered economic loss, loss of enjoyment of life, damage to her reputation, emotional distress, and physical injury.
Michelle Y. Cimino, a lawyer with The Cimino Law Firm, works with sexual harassment cases in the workplace. She says it’s important anyone who experiences unwanted behavior or discrimination, keeps a record of it.
“I definitely tell my clients or anybody, a prospective client for example, to keep a chronology of events, so yes, document as much as you possibly can about when these incidents took place, who may have witnessed them, where they took place, as much detail as you can I think lends credibility to those allegations,” Cimino said.
She also recommended checking the employment manual or policy and following up with Human Resources.
“You can certainly reach out to an administrative agency as well. There’s the New York State Division of Human Rights, there’s the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and they will also investigate complaints of discrimination,” Cimino said.
Cimino also said it isn’t easy for victims of harassment to come forward with their allegations.
“I think most people, most of us live from paycheck to paycheck, and they are dependent on their job, especially if they are supporting their family and so their concern is that if they report their direct supervisor, they will be fired, demoted, suspended, which will have immediate impact on their ability to feed their family,” Cimino said.
She also said there is a legitimate fear of how coming forward will impact your career advancement or how you’re treated in the workplace.
“Typically after you make those complaints, or even after you protest that type of behavior, the overall work place climate is not pleasant for you after that,” Cimino said.
Cimino said sexual harassment and discrimination happens in the work place quite often. “It’s shocking in this day and age how often it occurs and how little or nothing is done about it,” she said.
According to the lawsuit, the woman demands a trial by jury on all matters that are triable by jury.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.