Former judge Rosenbaum accused of rape, sexual harassment

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More than a year after former Monroe County Supreme Court Justice Matthew Rosenbaum’s sudden resignation from the bench under mysterious circumstances, he has been accused in a federal discrimination complaint of subjecting a female employee to years of humiliating sexual harassment.

The court action also targets the state’s Unified Court System, the New York Office of Court Administration and various court officials for allegedly ignoring or deflecting multiple complaints against Rosenbaum lodged over a period of years by the plaintiff, Rosenbaum’s former secretary, Rebecca Klymn. It was filed in the federal Western District of New York’s Rochester Division on July 16.

In addition to a collection of court-administration officials and Rosenbaum, defendants targeted by the action include Monroe County Supreme Court Justice Ann Taddeo.

Rosenbaum did not immediately return a call seeking comment. 

“As we have not been officially served, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this point,” Unified Court System spokesman Lucien Chalfen wrote in an email.

Matthew Rosenbaum

Taddeo is on vacation and would not be available to comment for the next two weeks, her law clerk, Donald Scardino, told the Rochester Beacon on Tuesday. 

Rosenbaum’s abrupt resignation from his judicial post in January 2020 was accompanied by his promise to never again hold or seek a New York judgeship. The son of the late Richard Rosenbaum, a widely respected judge, onetime state Republican Party chair and a key aide to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, Matthew Rosenbaum had been on the bench for 15 years and held a plum assignment as presider over the Monroe County Commercial Court. 

The state’s Unified Court System at the time acknowledged that serious charges had led to Rosenbaum’s exit but kept explicit details under wraps. 

“The matter against Judge Rosenbaum was of such magnitude that, notwithstanding his resignation, it was important to make sure he would never return to the bench,” said Robert Tembeckjian, State Commission on Judicial Conduct administrator, in a January 2020 statement. 

Rosenbaum’s exit capped an approximately three-month investigation, a probe that commentators noted at that time was relatively brief for investigations of its type. 

In court papers, Klymn accuses Rosenbaum of forcing her to perform oral sex on numerous occasions beginning in 2005 and continuing for years. She also claims that Rosenbaum at one point raped her. Klymn alleges that numerous complaints she made to local court officials and officials in the larger statewide system went unheeded.

“Defendant Rosenbaum told Plaintiff that performing fellatio upon him was part of her job, that he was stressed, and she was required to assist him in relieving his stress. Rosenbaum also threatened Plaintiff that if she wanted to keep her job she would comply with his demands for oral sex,” Klymn’s court brief states. 

Near the start of Rosenbaum’s alleged ongoing harassment, in 2005, when she was in the midst of divorce proceedings, Klymn claims the judge threatened her with possible loss of custody of her minor son if she would not give in to his demands for oral sex.  

In addition to demands for forced workplace oral sex that lasted until 2019, Klymn claims that Rosenbaum inappropriately sent her on personal errands and had her do secretarial chores for his synagogue during work hours, subjected her to unwanted touching, and continually referred to her with epithets like “sweetie” and “honey,” which she considered demeaning. 

Klymn’s court complaint details a long history of a court system that allegedly did not respond in any meaningful way to her pleas for a way out of her situation and at times was more protective of Rosenbaum, slow walking and ignoring Klymn’s harassment complaints against him. 

Local court officials and those in the wider statewide Unified Court System “failed or refused to take any actions to stop or prevent Plaintiff from being retaliated against by … Rosenbaum from 2007 until 2019,” Klymn claims in court papers. 

Court officials pursued “a policy or practice designed and implemented to protect judges from discipline or any other adverse action in response to the judges’ violation of laws prohibiting sexual harassment and/or sexual discrimination,” the court brief adds.

According to the brief, when Klymn sought help from Taddeo in 2007, “defendant Taddeo told plaintiff that there wasn’t much she (Taddeo) could do, other than conduct sexual abuse training.  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.”  

As she attempted to press claims against Rosenbaum, Klymn alleges, Rosenbaum became hostile toward her, advising her “to take a leave of absence to get her head on straight” in mid-2019. When she did ask for a leave, Rosenbaum denied the request. Later that year, Klymn claims, Rosenbaum instructed his staff to stop speaking to her. 

In July 2019, Klymn alleges in court papers, she again met with Taddeo to discuss the situation. The head of court administration for the Seventh Judicial District and another local court official also attended. They told her they could do nothing to help her, Klymn claims. 

A 2018 complaint Klymn filed against Rosenbaum went unanswered, the court brief states. Klymn claims that an official with the state court system’s Commission on Judicial Conduct later told her that papers she filed against Rosenbaum had been lost. 

Roughly a month before Rosenbaum’s exit from the bench, the Commission on Judicial Conduct informed Klymn that Rosenbaum had agreed to resign and that his resignation would end the commission’s investigation of the matter.

Klymn claims in court papers that the same court system official who told her that her complaint had been lost told Klymn that she had asked for the treatment she allegedly received from Rosenbaum because of the way she dressed. 

As previously reported by the Rochester Beacon, since quitting his judicial post, Rosenbaum has offered his services as a professional mediator through Rosenbaum Mediations PLLC, a firm he founded last year.

Since the judge’s departure, Klymn claims to have fared little better than she did in pressing harassment complaints against Rosenbaum in a quest to find new work with the courts. On medical leave through 2020 and continuing into this year, Klymn’s court papers state that her lawsuit was filed as her eligibility for medical leave expired and her doctor has cleared her to return to work.

But while Klymn was told by court officials more than a year ago that a Family Court job awaited her, the position has not yet come through. In April, Vito Caruso, the state’s deputy chief administrative judge for courts outside of New York City, informed Klymn in a letter that as of April 29, she had been placed on involuntary leave.  

Klymn’s court action seeks lost pay, pension and Social Security benefits, and for her to be awarded unspecified compensatory and punitive damages plus legal costs in “the maximum amount permitted by law.” 

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer.

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