Bench Memos

Judge Richard Roberts Retires Amid Rape Allegations

How Appealing reports that Judge Richard Russell Roberts, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, has announced his retirement from the bench. This decision comes amid allegations that, as a young prosecutor, he repeatedly raped a 16-year-old witness in a murder trial he was prosecuting in Utah. The alleged victim recently filed a lawsuit against Judge Roberts, who was nominated to the bench in 1998 by President Clinton. Judge Roberts, through his attorneys, acknowledges that an “intimate relationship” took place, though insists it was consensual and had no effect on the trial. At the time of the alleged assaults, Roberts was 27 and the alleged victim was 16.  I do not know what Utah law was at the time of the alleged assault, but under current Utah law, any such relationship would still have been unlawful. Under current Utah law, a 16 year old cannot consent to sexual activity with someone who is more than ten years older, as Roberts was at the time.  The relevant portions of the Utah code have been amended several times since the 1980s, so I do not know whether this was also the case when the sexual activity occurred.

Jonathan H. Adler — Mr. Adler is an NRO contributing editor and the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. His latest book is Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane.


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