Joseph J. Russo

Joseph J. Russo was appointed to the position of First Assistant Public Defender following his promotion from Assistant Public Defender.  Joe served as the Deputy Public Defender (managing attorney) of the OPD state-wide Appellate Section for four years and served as the Deputy Public Defender in the Hudson Trial Region for seven years. Joe worked for many years in the Somerset and Warren Trial Regions, which included serving as the Deputy Public Defender. He is the only public defender in OPD history to serve as a managing attorney of the Appellate Section and trial regions.

In addition to extensive trial experience, Joe has argued many important cases before the Supreme Court and Appellate Division. He argued State v. Andujar, an historical case in which the Supreme Court called for a Judicial Conference on Jury Selection. He argued State v. Carter, where the police were racially profiling motorists for having “Garden State” blocked on license plates. Joe successfully argued State v. S.S. before the Supreme Court, where the Court changed the standard of review in video-taped confession cases.  He argued State v. Comer on behalf of amicus curiae OPD in which the Supreme Court held that juveniles sentenced to a mandatory thirty years in prison for murder are entitled to “look back” hearings. Joe successfully argued State v. Thomas before the Appellate Division which extended the holding of Comer to juveniles sentenced to lengthy prison terms. He argued the most significant parole case in New Jersey history, Sundiata Acoli v. N.J.S.P.B., on behalf of amicus curiae OPD.

In State v. J.L.G., Joe litigated the first Frye Hearing in history involving the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS), where the Supreme Court upheld the trial court finding that CSAAS is not scientifically reliable. Joe successfully argued the first case before the Appellate Division, State v. R.G., which outlined standards for forcibly medicating incompetent defendants to restore competency. And in State in the Interest of Z.S., he argued the first major case interpreting the 2016 juvenile waiver statute.

Joe was named the 2017 Criminal Lawyer of the Year by the Hudson County Bar Association. He is the founder and co-chair of the state-wide Parole Project, co-chair of the Amicus Committee, co-chair of the Miller/Comer/Thomas Resentencing Committee, and for several years co-chaired the Forensic Science Work Group. Joe serves on the Board of Trustees of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association Working Group on Jury Selection and is a long-standing member of the Supreme Court Model Criminal Jury Charge Committee.