Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Friday, March 9, 2018

Where are the Women on the European Court of Justice?

Rebecca Gills & Christian Jensen, Where are the Women? Legal Traditions and Descriptive Representation on the European Court of Justice, in Politics, Groups, and Identities (Feb. 2018)

What constrains the representation of women on the European Court of Justice (ECJ)? In this paper, we investigate how gender-based double standards can diminish the likelihood that the member state will select a female candidate. We find that the appointment of women to the ECJ depends upon the relationship between the appointee's policymaking backgrounds and the degree to which legal traditions in the member state provide policymaking experience to ordinary judges. The fact that this configuration has a disparate impact by candidate gender reflects the fact that female candidates are expected to demonstrate partisan neutrality or policymaking expertise, while male candidates are assumed to have these traits. Our findings demonstrate the importance of informal job requirements and institutional constraints on the ability of governments to achieve their representation goals.

March 9, 2018 in Courts, Gender, International, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé: A Life

Kim Brooks, Justice for Equality, JOTWELL, reviewing Constance Backhouse, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé: A Life (2017).

Claire L’Heureux-Dubé was Canada’s second woman to join our Supreme Court of Canada. She was famous for her strong personality, her charm, her directness, and eventually her willingness to dissent. She was loved by some, loathed by others.

My opening paragraph so dramatically understates the significance of Justice L’Heureux- Dubé. It pretends that the life of one woman – a woman who faced substantial personal and professional challenges – can be adequately captured in a few words.

Enter Constance Backhouse’s brilliant biography. Biography is an art. How to render a person visible? To be appropriately honest about her failings and reflective about her successes? To situate her life within its broad context – social, political, economic, and scientific? To reflect her social character – her relationships and the effects of those relationships on the path of her life?

Backhouse’s considerable work answers these questions.

In over 700 meticulously researched pages, she takes us on a magnificent journey. ***

These opening twenty-eight chapters (in a book with thirty-eight chapters) are gorgeously written with specificity that leaves the reader feeling like she is standing right beside L’Heureux-Dubé as her life unfolds. That’s credit to Backhouse’s use of detail, her reliance on hundreds and hundreds of hours of interviews with L’Heureux-Dubé and those who know her, and her fierce analytical skill, which renders plain the subtle.

Unconventionally, but useful especially to the legally trained reader, the biography then looks carefully at six of Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s Supreme Court of Canada decisions – decisions she rendered on sexual assault, spousal support, human rights for same-sex couples, tax law, Quebec secession, and immigration. These decisions are presented as signature moments in Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s self-expression. Backhouse situates each decision in its broader social context. Each of these last six chapters has its own story to tell and each should be included in any course materials that include the underlying decision. Each is dazzling.

February 28, 2018 in Books, Courts, Judges, Legal History, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Trying Campus Rape in a Court of Law

NYT, At Yale, Trying Campus Rape in a Court of Law

There is no log of how many campus rape cases go to trial each year, but experts and victim advocates agree that the number is vanishingly small. The Department of Justice estimates that between 4 percent and 20 percentof female college students who are raped report the attack to law enforcement. Of reported cases, only a fraction lead to arrests, let alone a trial.


The one at Yale, then, might seem like a perfect case to test the fiercely debated question of whether college rape accusations are best handled by internal university panels or by law enforcement.***


“This isn’t about which institution is better,” said Janet Halley, a Harvard Law School professor who has written about the legal implications of Title IX enforcement. “It’s about what happens when you put two institutions into the same process and they have different rationalities, different institutional cultures — but above all different rights attached to them.


“This is oil and water flowing in together.” ***


The debate around who should handle investigations seems unlikely to fade. Even as Ms. DeVos has permitted universities to more closely align their hearing processes with those the criminal justice system, she has also retained the requirement that schools investigate claims of sexual misconduct, rather than simply hand them off to law enforcement.

February 27, 2018 in Courts, Education, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book: Putting Trials on Trial: Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession

Book Review: Putting Trials on Trial: Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession, by Elaine Craig

Dalhousie law professor Craig’s impeccably researched book, which analyzes how Canada’s criminal justice system contributes to the trauma of sexual assault victims, is an outstanding work that dovetails perfectly with the #MeToo movement. Working from interviews with legal professionals, analyses of problematic judicial decisions, and reproductions of stomach-turning trial transcripts, Craig (Troubling Sex) skewers the still prevalent notion that Canadian sexual assault survivors enjoy a free pass in the courts. By reproducing contemporary accounts of aggressive cross-examinations that “whack the complainant,” unsavory defense strategies intended to intimidate complainants into withdrawing their cases, and reliance on rape myths—revealing clothing, alcohol use, past sexual history—in criminal trials, Craig expertly makes the case that, despite progressive law reforms, the legal system remains predominantly unsafe for survivors. Combining academic rigor with an eminently readable style that is cohesive and fearless (prominent lawyers and judges are pointedly called to account), Craig makes several proposals—including improved education and training for all judicial system participants, public reporting of all decisions, and making courtroom culture less imposing—that would mitigate harm without impinging on the rights of the accused. This is a must-read title for judges, lawyers, politicians, courtroom staff, and anyone concerned about sexual violence.

February 14, 2018 in Books, Courts, International, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Examining Feminist Legal Briefs to SCOTUS for Their Use of Race–Gender Analogical Legal Framing

Holly McCammon, Brittany N. Hearne, Allison R. McGrath, Minyoung Moon,  Legal Mobilization and Analogical Framing: Feminist Litigators' Use of Race-Gender Analogies, 40 Law & Policy 57 (2018).

From the Introduction:

In an effort to contribute to our understanding of social movement judicial legal mobilization, our paper explores legal briefs submitted to the US Supreme Court in gender-equality cases since 1970. We focus particularly on the use of a specific type of legal framing in these briefs: analogical legal framing. As Sunstein (1993) points out, this is a commonly used form of reasoning in litigation, and some (Mayeri 2001; Rush 1997) argue that it is a dominant form, particularly in civil rights litigation. In analogical legal framing, a litigant argues that similarities exist, for instance, between two groups, and developments in law regarding one group should be considered in adjudication concerning the other group (Mayeri 2001; Sunstein 1993).2 Here we specifically investigate feminist litigators' use of race–gender analogies in their cause lawyering. Feminist cause lawyers have pursued a substantial number of cases before the high court over the last several decades in an effort to achieve greater gender equality under the law. In such cases, with some frequency, the feminist party to the case (that is, the party seeking greater gender equality) draws an analogy between racial and gender discrimination as they argue in favor of broadening gender equality. In fact, MacKinnon (1991, 1281) goes so far as to state that “the judicial interpretation of sex equality … has been built on the racial analogy.” Mayeri (2011, 3), who examines in rich detail “reasoning from race,” states that “‘second-wave’ feminists conscripted legal strategies developed to combat race discrimination into the service of women's rights.”


Various scholars explore whether and how movement activists invoke the law generally (e.g., Pedriana 2006; Andersen 2005; McCann 1994), yet few examine how cause lawyers articulate their demands in court. Our investigation contributes to the larger literature on legal mobilization by taking a number of steps. First, we explore the use of analogical legal framing by activists, a type of litigation reasoning commonly used but not yet investigated as a form of movement framing. We examine the frequency and trends in the use of such arguments in feminist briefs presented to the Supreme Court in gender-equality cases from 1970 to the present. In addition, we provide insight into the various forms the race–gender analogy takes. Second, we consider how social movement framing concepts, such as frame bridging and transformation (Snow et al. 1986), can be understood in combination with analogical legal framing.


Finally, our research also contributes to the understanding of why activists choose to deploy particular types of frames. A handful of scholars have investigated the circumstances shaping why movements articulate certain types of frames (e.g., McCammon 2012; Coe 2011; Maney, Woehrle, and Coy 2005), but few have considered the circumstances leading to the use of specific frames in movement litigation (for exceptions, see Goldberg 2014; Fuchs 2013; Ziegler 2011). Our investigation of analogic framing by feminist legal activists will enrich our understanding not only of movement framing but also (in particular) of framing as practiced by activists engaged in legal mobilization. By examining why shifts in the overall use and in the varying types of the analogic frame occur, our research furthers understanding of this particular form of legal mobilization strategy.

February 8, 2018 in Courts, Legal History, Race, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

MeToo in the Courts: An Investigation into the Complaints

Joan Biskupic, #MeToo in the Courts: Sexual Misconduct Kept Under Wraps,  CNN Investigation

The abuse women have suffered in the nation's courthouses has been a largely untold story. And its system for complaints -- where judges police fellow judges -- is a world so closely controlled and cloaked in secrecy that it defies public scrutiny.***


Rarely do sexual misconduct allegations against federal judges become public, . . . as they did in late 2017, with myriad complaints against California-based US Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski that drew national attention in the current #MeToo moment, forcing his resignation....

CNN compiled and reviewed nearly 5,000 judicial orders related to misconduct complaints and available online over the past 10 years. The documents, covering an array of misbehavior beyond sexual misconduct, are remarkably short on details.
The CNN analysis found that:
  • Very few cases against judges are deeply investigated, and very few judges are disciplined in any way. In many years, not a single judge is sanctioned.
  • None of the actual complaints (more than 1,000 are filed annually) are made public. In the public judicial orders, claims are sparingly summarized, and accused judges' names rarely appear. Some orders refer to "corrective action" by a judge without saying what happened.
  • Judicial orders are dumped onto circuit court websites as a series of numbered files with no indication of the allegations, person complaining or outcome. The practice makes it even more difficult to identify the most serious misconduct cases hidden among the opaque lists of documents because each order must be opened and individually read to gain even minimal information about the nature of the complaint.
In the 12-month period that ended September 30, 2016, there were 1,303 complaints filed. Of those, only four were referred to a special committee for the most serious level of investigation, according to the Administrative Office of the US Courts. In 2015, of the 1,214 complaints, four went to a special committee.
Going back to 2006, fewer than 10 cases annually were deeply investigated and even fewer resulted in disciplinary action. In six of the past 11 years, not a single judge was reprimanded, suspended or otherwise sanctioned for misconduct.

January 30, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Using the Courtroom for Restorative Justice in the Gymnastics Sexual Assault Case

 The Doctor and the Judge (podcast)

Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar was lauded as the go-to doctor for the United States’ best gymnasts. After he pleaded guilty to multiple sex crimes, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina cleared her docket to give each of his accusers a chance to speak at the sentencing hearing. More than 150 women, including several Olympians, confronted Dr. Nassar in the courtroom and spoke of their abuse. It took seven days.


It was an extraordinary use of the courtroom — and a new way of thinking about justice.


On today’s episode: Emily Bazelon, who covers legal issues for The New York Times Magazine.; Makayla Thrush, a former gymnast who made a statement at the sentencing, spoke to Sabrina Tavernise, a Times reporter.

Victims in Larry Nassar Case Find a Fierce Advocate: The Judge

Judge Aquilina, who has now allowed nearly 140 girls and women, including several prominent Olympic gymnasts, to give statements against Dr. Nassar, leaned forward from the bench. She smiled at the gymnast, Bailey Lorencen, and delivered her own heartfelt statement in a manner and tone befitting a therapist.


“The military has not yet come up with fiber as strong as you,” Judge Aquilina told Ms. Lorencen, calling her a “heroine” and a “superhero.” She added: “Mattel ought to make toys so that little girls can look at you and say, ‘I want to be her.’ Thank you so much for being here, and for your strength.”


Belying the stone-faced image of dispassionate jurists, Judge Aquilina has emerged as an unusually fierce victims’ advocate in a sentencing hearing that has drawn national attention for the scope of Dr. Nassar’s abuse and for the role that institutions like U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University played in employing him for decades.


Judge Aquilina’s vow to let every victim speak has also unexpectedly turned the hearing into a cathartic forum that has emboldened dozens of women who had remained silent to come forward with accounts of abuse by Dr. Nassar. Court officials initially had expected 88 young women to speak when the hearing began last week, but the number is expected to top 150 by the time these proceedings conclude.


Judge Aquilina, 59, who has written crime novels and served 20 years in the Michigan Army National Guard, has offered encouragement, consolation and tissues. She has made no secret that she wants Dr. Nassar to spend the rest of his life suffering in prison.


And, in an extraordinary session streamed live on the internet over several days, she has opened her courtroom to any victim who wishes to speak, for however long she wishes to speak. That goes for their coaches and parents, too.


“Leave your pain here,” Judge Aquilina told one young woman, “and go out and do your magnificent things.”


Stephen Gillers, a professor of law at New York University, said that although judges are often thought of as unbiased and impartial, it is important to remember that this is a sentencing hearing, not a trial. Dr. Nassar, who has already received a 60-year federal sentence for a child pornography conviction, pleaded guilty to several state sexual assault charges and will be sentenced after the “victim impact statements” are finished.

The Transformative Justice of Judge Aquilina

For survivors of rape and abuse, testifying about what they’ve experienced can be a brutal ordeal. They can be badgered and disoriented by defense attorneys on the stand, and have their characters closely prodded and maligned. But Judge Aquilina, again, upended this ritual, enabled by the fact that it was a sentencing hearing, not a trial. She turned obligation into empowerment. She told the women speaking, again and again, how strong they were, how powerful, how full of potential. After Mattie Larson spoke about how Nassar turned “the sport I fell in love with as a kid into my personal living hell,” Judge Aquilina commended her courage. “You are so strong and brave and you are not broken,” she said. “You are glued back together perfectly. Thank you for being part of the sister survivors. Your voice means everything.”

Judge Aquilina Garners Praise, Some Criticism in Larry Nassar Case

Though many have commended Aquilina for giving victims a forum to speak, one judge who has known her for years criticized her as showing favoritism.


Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette said Nassar’s sentencing was “the most violative” sentencing proceeding he can recall. Collette questioned why Aquilina would allow women who are not part of the criminal case to address Nassar in court. He also found it inappropriate for her to tell Nassar, “I just signed your death warrant.”


“There has to be some semblance of fairness, no matter how much you hate the person,” Collette said.


“Doing justice is one thing," he said. "It is not a judge’s function to get people healed.”

January 25, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Fourth Circuit Allows Pay Gap Case to Move Forward over Dissent on State Sovereignty Grounds

EEOC Wins Battle Over Maryland Insurance Regulator Pay

A federal appeals court has put a pay discrimination suit against the Maryland Insurance Administration back in action.


A three-judge panel at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled, 2-1, that the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) can move forward with a lawsuit alleging that the insurance regulatory agency may have paid female employees less than it paid male employees holding comparable jobs.


The EEOC has presented evidence in the case, EEOC v. Maryland Insurance Administration (Case Number 16-2408), suggesting that the agency paid three former fraud investigators who are women less than it paid four former fraud investigators with comparable credentials and experience who are men.


The EEOC showed that the female investigators ended up earning $45,503 to $50,300 per year. The male investigators earned from $47,194 to $51,561 per year.


A judge at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore granted summary judgment in favor of the Maryland Insurance Administration.


Two judges at the 4th Circuit, Circuit Judge Barbara Milano Keenan and Circuit Judge Henry Floyd, overturned the lower-court ruling and agreed to let the EEOC move ahead with the suit.

Judge Wilkinson dissent on state sovereignty grounds.

J. Harvie Wilkinson III, the third judge on the panel, voted to uphold the lower-court ruling. In a dissenting opinion, he blasted his colleagues for ignoring Maryland's sovereign rights.

"The majority refuses to so much as mention a state's sovereign interest in its own civil service," Wilkinson writes. "The place of state governments in our Republic has quite passed it by. Respect for states [as] states fails to merit even the slight courtesies of lip service."

Given that, legally, the United States still has a federal system, and states still have rights, the EEOC should not have brought such a marginal case against a state, Wilkinson writes.

"State workforces are highly regulated and regimented, and state law provides remedies for gender discrimination in all its forms," Wilkinson writes. "Simply put, state civil service systems are not hotbeds of gender bias, as this feeble suit makes all too clear."

The Maryland Insurance Administration suit puts Maryland's sovereign interest in its own workforce entirely in the hands of federal authorities, Wilkinson writes.

"Here, a federal agency is bringing suit, the federal courts are deciding the suit, and federal law is providing the applicable rule of decision," he writes. "In combination, this assertion of federal authority diminishes to an unacceptable extent the proper role of states in our constitutional system."

The majority opinion and the dissent are available here


January 10, 2018 in Courts, Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Oregon Justices Share Experience of Sitting on Majority Female Bench

Justices of the Oregon Supreme Court

Oregon Justices Share Experiences of Sitting on Majority Female Bench (video)

For the first time in state history, there are more women than men sitting on the Oregon Supreme Court.***


Justice Rebecca Duncan was the female justice to tip the scale after being appointed to the bench by Governor Kate Brown in May of 2017.


Duncan told FOX 12 the fact that the majority of justices are women is very meaningful, not only for her and the other women on the court, but also for women and girls across the state.


“It sends the signal that times do change and progress can be made,” she said. “I heard from people who were incredibly excited, and there were people who had gone to law school, or where law school wasn’t even really an option for them at the time they were entering their professional lives just because of what was viewed as available career paths for women, and they were so excited to see what had been a limit no longer existing.”


Justice Martha Lee Walters, Justice Lynn Nakamoto and Justice Meagan Aileen Flynn said they too have heard similar stories since that momentous day.


“Everybody wants to know that they’re going to be heard if they appear before a court of law.  What’s the most important thing to them? That they’re going to be listened to, that they think they’re going to have a fair hearing,” Walters explained. “So, if people see people on the bench who they think are similar to them in some way, it makes them think, ‘Oh, there’s someone who I think will listen to me.’ So, we need to have great diversity.”***




The four justices say they are honored to sit on Oregon’s highest court and hope this historic appointment encourages other young women to pursue similar interests.


“It’s nice to see that women have now gotten into more senior positions,” Nakamoto said. “That they are in a position to be on a high court."


There will soon be a fifth female justice in Oregon after Governor Brown announced Monday that Judge Adrienne Nelson from the Multnomah County Circuit Court will be replacing the retiring Justice Jack Landau.


The four current justices also told FOX 12 they are hopeful that majority-female supreme courts will one day be nothing notable at all and instead will be common.

January 9, 2018 in Courts, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Steps the Judiciary Needs to Take to Redress Sexual Harassment in its Own Courts

Lara Bazelon, After #MeToo Comes to the Courts

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. took a long overdue step toward answering that question on Sunday when he announced that a working group would assess whether the judiciary’s disciplinary procedures are capable of addressing sexual harassment complaints and taking corrective action. The governing statute, passed by Congress in 1980, holds federal judges responsible for disciplining one another, save for the nine Supreme Court justices who are immune from any oversight.


But this process is shrouded in secrecy, with embarrassing allegations swept under the rug and sanctions that are inadequate to the offense. If the judiciary is going to better police itself, it must overcome its historical impulse to shield bad actors from consequences they would not hesitate to mete out to people who don’t wear black robes.



This ordeal makes it clear that the chief justice’s working group must overhaul the process to make it more robust and transparent. This is no easy task. The law mandates that all evidence, testimony and hearings relating to misconduct investigations be kept secret. But judges can — and should — publish detailed, well-reasoned opinions about the outcome of those cases to inform the public and maintain confidence in the integrity of the proceedings.


Also crucial to ensuring fairness is giving both sides the same procedural rights. The statute allows for equal treatment, but as enforced it is biased against the person who brings the complaint. An accused judge has the right to be present at a disciplinary hearing, to present testimony and witnesses, and to have a lawyer in any disciplinary case that is subject to investigation. The working group should provide the same rights to the person accusing the judge.


Sexual misconduct cases should also be automatically transferred from the circuit where they arose to a court in a different region of the country so that judges won’t have to pass judgment on a close colleague whom they see on a regular basis. (Before he resigned, Judge Kozinski was set to be judged by his colleagues on the Second Circuit, but only because Chief Justice Roberts had ordered that transfer.)


Finally, the working group should hold the nine Supreme Court justices accountable under the same standards. The fact that Congress exempted them when it passed the disciplinary law in 1980 is no excuse for refusing to play by the same rules as everyone else.

January 4, 2018 in Courts, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Judges' Rules Help Establish Diverse Attorney Voices in Court

ABA J, Judges Push for Diverse Voices in Court

On the day U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wolford received a copy of a New York State Bar Association report revealing that women participate in court at lower rates than men, the judge had a meeting to discuss a pending breach-of-contract case.


In addition to a male partner, each side had a female associate who, Wolford says, had clearly done the relevant research. With the report in mind, Wolford of the Western District of New York recommended the associates argue at the hearing—and they did.


“It was one of the best arguments I have had the privilege of presiding over,” Wolford recalls.


According to the July report, female attorneys account for just 25 percent of counsels appearing in commercial and criminal New York state and federal cases. In more complex matters, the percentage declines further. A 2015 ABA report found similar numbers in a study of the Northern District of Illinois.


In August, Wolford implemented a standing rule that encouraged young attorney participation. Such rules, which often offer oral argument as incentive, are one way the NYSBA report recommends the bench help address litigation’s gender disparities.


Wolford’s rule was inspired by similar guidelines set forth by Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. He implemented his rule soon after taking the bench in 1999, but he also requires large firms to document how they will integrate junior attorneys into a case. Alsup says he does so for the good of the profession, as well as for up-and-coming lawyers.


“If we don’t train the next generation, then lawyering will suffer and the public will lose confidence” in the system, he says.


None of the rules mentions gender or race. But the measures can have the effect of increasing opportunities for women and minorities because they now make up a greater share of young attorneys. In 2016, according to ABA data, women composed more than half of matriculating students at all law schools, and minorities made up more than a third of such students. In 2009, 47 percent of all enrolled students were women and 23 percent were minorities.


Attorney Sharon Porcellio, who worked on the New York bar report, says she thinks the rules are an innovative way to address an age-old problem.


“Those of us who have been practicing for a long time had hoped that the pipeline theory”—the idea that increasing numbers of women and minorities in law school would lead to equal representation in practice—“would work,” she says. “The pipeline theory has not proven to work.”

December 30, 2017 in Courts, Judges, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Judge Kozinski Sexual Harassment Saga: From Beginning to End

Initially, seven women -- three women law professors, including one former dean, and four women externs accuse US Court of Appeal Judge Alex Kozinski of sexual harassment 

Wash Post, Prominent Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Seven Women Have Now Accused Judge of Sexual Harassment

NPR, Federal Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski Accused of Sexual Harassment

NYT, Federal Appeals Court Judge is Accused of Sexual Harassment


The first accuser, Heidi Bond's responded further on the details on her allegation.

Bond made two important suggestions for structural change to address the problem of sexual harassment in judicial clerkships.  

I want the law clerk handbook distributed by the judiciary to explicitly state that judges may not compel clerk silence on matters like the ones I have described here. I also believe that there should be a person, or persons, or an institution that clerks can turn to in order to find answers. I understand that there are reasons why no such institution exists now—judicial independence and confidentiality must be fiercely protected. I also believe that the judiciary is capable of coming up with a solution to this problem.

A type of ombuds office within the court administrative office might be a way to implement this.

Bond's additional recommendation: 

I want greater honesty regarding judicial clerkships. Law students are often told in glowing terms that a clerkship will be the best year in their career. They are never told that it might, in fact, be their worst—and that if it is their worst, they may be compelled to lie to others in the name of loyalty to their judge.

I also want law schools to start giving our best and brightest students accurate advice about clerkships. Students are often told that if they receive a clerkship offer from a judge, they must say “yes” without hesitation. I cannot imagine a situation more rife for abuse. Students should feel free to say no to any judge who triggers their discomfort for any reason.

However, Nancy Leong counseled against the potential consequences of steering women away from prestigious clerkships.


Additional women, including national reporter Dahlia Lithwick shared their metoo stories about Judge Kozinski.

Dahlia Lithwick, Judge Alex Kozinski Made Us All Victims and Acccomplices

Nine More Women Say Judge Subjected Them to Inappropriate Behavior Including Four Who Say He Touched or Kissed Them


Attorney Susan Estrich, also a feminist law scholar and professor at USC who wrote "Sex and Power" and "Sex at Work," represented Judge Kozinski.  She also formerly represented Roger Ailes in his sexual harassment case.  See NYT, The Curious Case of Susan Estrich


The case triggered much thought and commentary:

Dara Purvis, When Judges Prey on Clerks

Vivia Chen, Can We Get Rid of Alex Kozinski?  

Charlotte Garden, On Judge Kozinski and Open Secrets

Alison Frankel, Breaking the Law Clerks' Code of Silence: The Sexual Misconduct Claims Against Judge Kozinski

Catharine Crump, Clerkships are Invaluable for Young Lawyers. They Can Also be a Setup for Abuse.

Debra Weiss, Will Complaints of Inappropriate Sexual Conduct by Kozinski have any Impact Impact

Judge Alex Kozinski's Opinion in a 2001 Sexual Harassment Case is Alarming 


As a result:

An inquiry was initiated.  Chief Judge Initiates Judicial Review of Allegations Against Alex Kozinski

Judge Kozinski retired on December 18, 2017. Alex Kozinski Announces Immediate Retirement Following Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

Chief Justice Roberts amended the law clerk handbook.  Newly Amended Law Clerk Handbook Affirms Harassment Complaints are Permitted.  "Clerks are encouraged to bring such matters to the attention of an appropriate judge or other official," the handbook now says.

December 19, 2017 in Courts, Equal Employment, Judges, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ninth Circuit Judge Kozinski Accused of Sexual Harassment

Three women law professors, including one former dean, and four women externs accuse US Court of Appeal Judge Alex Kozinski of sexual harassment 

Wash Post, Prominent Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Seven Women Have Now Accused Judge of Sexual Harassment

NPR, Federal Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski Accused of Sexual Harassment

NYT, Federal Appeals Court Judge is Accused of Sexual Harassment


Heidi Bond's further response provides more details on her allegation.


Bond makes two important suggestions for structural change to address the problem of sexual harassment in judicial clerkships.  

I want the law clerk handbook distributed by the judiciary to explicitly state that judges may not compel clerk silence on matters like the ones I have described here. I also believe that there should be a person, or persons, or an institution that clerks can turn to in order to find answers. I understand that there are reasons why no such institution exists now—judicial independence and confidentiality must be fiercely protected. I also believe that the judiciary is capable of coming up with a solution to this problem.

A type of ombuds office within the court administrative office might be a way to implement this.

Bond's additional recommendation: 

I want greater honesty regarding judicial clerkships. Law students are often told in glowing terms that a clerkship will be the best year in their career. They are never told that it might, in fact, be their worst—and that if it is their worst, they may be compelled to lie to others in the name of loyalty to their judge.

I also want law schools to start giving our best and brightest students accurate advice about clerkships. Students are often told that if they receive a clerkship offer from a judge, they must say “yes” without hesitation. I cannot imagine a situation more rife for abuse. Students should feel free to say no to any judge who triggers their discomfort for any reason.

However, Nancy Leong counsels against the potential consequences of steering women away from prestigious clerkships.


Further Updates as of Dec. 14:

Dara Purvis, When Judges Prey on Clerks

Vivia Chen, Can We Get Rid of Alex Kozinski?  

Dahlia Lithwick, Judge Alex Kozinski Made Us All Victims and Accomplices

Charlotte Garden, On Judge Kozinski and Open Secrets

Alison Frankel, Breaking the Law Clerks' Code of Silence: The Sexual Misconduct Claims Against Judge Kozinski


December 11, 2017 in Courts, Judges, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Sexual Harassment Cases Often Rejected by the Courts

Sandra Sperino, Sexual Harassment Cases Often Rejected by the Courts

Many actors, politicians and executives, including at NPR, are now facing sexual-harassment allegations in the court of public opinion.


But in actual courts, such cases filed by workers against their employers are very often dismissed by judges. The standard for harassment under the law is high, and only an estimated 3 percent to 6 percent of the cases ever make it to trial.


That stands in stark contrast to the large pool of people who say they have experienced sexual harassment. In surveys, a quarter to half of women say they've experienced sexual harassment at work. But only a small fraction — estimates range around 5 to 15 percent of women — report their complaints to their employers, largely due to fear of retaliation.


Legal experts say the high dismissal rate of sexual harassment cases also has a chilling effect.


University of Cincinnati professor Sandra Sperino has read roughly 1,000 sexual-harassment cases that were dismissed before they went to trial.


"You'll see case after case where a woman was groped at work and the court will dismiss the case as a matter of law, finding that's not sexual harassment," Sperino says.


In a 1986 decision, the Supreme Court said the behavior needs to be "severe or pervasive" in order to qualify as harassment, whether it's on the basis of sex or race. Sperino says judges' interpretations of what qualifies are out of step with common sense and standard office policies.

December 4, 2017 in Courts, Equal Employment, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Severe or Pervasive Standard for Sexual Harassment Bars Many Claims

Sandra Sperino & Suja Thomas, Boss Grab Your Breasts? That's Not (Legally) Harassment

There remains a sense among Americans that the country’s legal system is well equipped to handle the harassment cases that will likely be brought as more women come forward with accusations, including against celebrities like Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor. The country has laws protecting people against harassment in the workplace and courts in which those laws are supposed to be enforced. Several high-profile lawsuits — including Gretchen Carlson’s suit against the former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, which was settled for $20 million — have reinforced this impression.But this notion is misleading. In fact, courts routinely dismiss cases brought by workers who claim their supervisors propositioned them, kissed them or grabbed their breasts. The judges declare that the conduct does not constitute harassment in a legal sense, and refuse to let the cases go to trial. How did we get here?


In the 1986 case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, the Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits harassment in the workplace based on sex, race, color, religion or national origin. Today, Meritor is viewed as a landmark case that officially recognized sexual harassment as an impermissible form of discrimination.


But in issuing its judgment, the Supreme Court used the words “severe or pervasive” to describe the level of seriousness that conduct must reach before meeting the legal definition of harassment. Those words are not found in Title VII. Instead they are a judicial interpretation of the statute — and have had lasting consequences.


Some conduct is clearly so serious that it always counts as harassment. For example, a supervisor raping an employee has consistently been viewed as “severe” enough to meet the bar. Supervisors who have subjected workers to sexual epithets and taunting every day for a long enough period meet the standard for “pervasive.” Other conduct, by contrast, is never going to meet the threshold — say, if a supervisor asks an employee out on a date once and does not treat her differently after she declines.


In the early and mid-1990s, the federal courts wrestled with the meaning of the “severe or pervasive” standard, and judges during that period created a very high bar for plaintiffs to meet. Unlike typical workers, these judges had lifelong job security and powerful positions. They also did not have the benefit of deliberating with a large group of people with different experiences as a jury does. These early cases have cast a long shadow, and today, some judges appear to simply be following the standards set by earlier courts. These standards have not aged well.

December 4, 2017 in Courts, Equal Employment, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Symposium on the Jurisprudential Legacy of Judge Constance Baker Motley, the First Black Woman Federal Judge

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Do Girls' Courts Work?

ABA J, Girls' Courts Under Scrutiny

As courtrooms specializing in girls’ cases crop up around the country, the U.S. Department of Justice is examining whether they actually work.


Since the early 2000s, an estimated 20 specialty girls’ courts have been created nationwide, though these gender-specific courts mean different things in different places. Sometimes it’s simply a docket dedicated to cases for girls. Others specialize in linking young female defendants with social services. There are even courts that hear only sex trafficking cases.


Leading the examination is the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s National Girls Initiative. “The study is a chance to look at where they are, what do they look like and how do we define their effectiveness,” says Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, president of the National Crittenton Foundation in Portland, Oregon, which coordinates the National Girls Initiative with the office.


The major concern is whether these courts are bringing more girls into the system and keeping them in detention and in prison longer or offering alternatives to incarceration.


The researchers are meeting with judges around the country, including Jennifer L. Ching, presiding judge of the Hawaii Girls Court. Established in 2004 as part of the Family Court of the First Circuit in Honolulu, it’s one of the country’s first such courts. It focuses on girls brought in on status charges, such as running away, skipping school or breaking curfew.


“Girls’ court is about the actual court hearings but also about supporting gender-specific, empowering activities,” says Karen Radius, founding judge of the Hawaiian court.

For a related prior post, see Girls' Court

November 21, 2017 in Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Decades Old Sexual Harassment Allegations Rarely Actionable in Court, but Viable Online

We are seeing an endless parade of new allegations of sexual harassment made daily against powerful men in entertainment, news, and business industries.  While doing much to elevate the public discourse of sexual harassment, they are also triggering the backlash accusations of “witch hunt.”

One piece of this accusation is that in many of these cases, the incidents now reported and alleged go back five, ten or twenty years.  There seems to be an inherent unfairness in bringing up such old claims now.  Advocates, of course, understand victims’ reluctance to come forward with claims, since such claims are rarely taken seriously or investigated and more often than not, cause substantial negative consequences to the woman professionally, financial, and emotionally.

The law, however, is quite concerned about these types of old claims, and has several doctrines designed to address this potential unfairness to the accused.

First, are statutes of limitations, which are relatively short for sexual harassment lawsuits. Most harassment suits are filed under the federal statute Title VII, and require that complaints be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the incident (or sometimes deferred to 300 days where state action is first sought).  Statutes of limitations for sexual assault are longer, most commonly 2-3 years for civil claims of sexual assault and 5-10 years for criminal sexual assault, or even no time limit for certain crimes like sexual assault of a minor.  Statutes of limitations generally help preserve evidence needed for both plaintiffs and defendants to accurately present their case, and provides timely notice and resolution of disputes.  In the sexual harassment context, it also may help ensure that the perpetrator stops his continued conduct against other women.

There is an exception to the statute of limitations for sexual harassment when the incident is part of a continuing pattern of conduct.  When old incidents are part of the same pattern of more recent conduct, the most recent incident triggers the clock, and the old incidents can still be brought in as evidence.  Mandel v. M&Q Packaging Corp., 3d. Cir. 2013.

Laches is as second doctrine seeking to avoid old claims from being actionable.  Laches is an equitable notion that bars a plaintiff from seeing a remedy when she has unreasonably delayed in filing an action, or unreasonably delayed in prosecuting the action after filing it.  Here, the known reluctance and harm to victims from filing might help mitigate the unreasonableness of the delay.  But the core of the laches inquiry is whether the delay caused prejudice to the defendant.  Prejudice can be economic, monetary or investment harm, or procedural, such as loss of evidence and witnesses. Thus, in the law, foundational precepts of due process and fairness prohibit litigating old claims, and place the obligation squarely on the plaintiff to bring forward her claims within a short time of the incident.  

Of course the media revelations of alleged past incidents are not bound by these doctrines of timeliness.  Nor, apparently, are internal organizational investigations of misconduct.  See NPR, Legal Landscape Shifts as More Sexual Harassment Allegations Surface Online

"It is a much sweeter and faster form of justice to out a harasser than to go through many years of legal battle, which is psychically, emotionally and financially exhausting," says Debra Katz, an attorney who specializes in harassment and discrimination in Washington, D.C. ***

More accusers are also coming forward online because "sex harassment cases have historically been difficult to prove" on legal grounds, says Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University.

More than half of sexual harassment claims made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year resulted in no charge. There is a consistent pattern in which accusers are unsuccessful, according to data from the past six years.

In addition, fewer than 5 percent of sexual harassment cases actually get to court, Rhode told Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson earlier this month.

"Fewer than those are actually litigated. And what normally happens when the cases are filed is they're settled with a confidentiality clause that prevents the victim from disclosing any details," she says.

Victims can also get around the legal statute of limitations [online], Rhode says.

"You can see people losing their jobs for conduct that occurred well before the statute of limitations," she says. "They may not have a legal claim, but they have an audience. And the reputational injuries — as we've seen with someone like Kevin Spacey — could be substantial."


November 20, 2017 in Courts, Pop Culture, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trump Nominating White Men to Federal Courts at Highest Rate in Decades

AP, Trump Choosing White Men as Judges, Highest Rate in Decades

President Donald Trump is nominating white men to America’s federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years, threatening to reverse a slow transformation toward a judiciary that reflects the nation’s diversity.


So far, 91 percent of Trump’s nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.


The shift could prove to be one of Trump’s most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.


Trump is anything but shy about his plans, calling his imprint on the courts an “untold story” of his presidency.


Comparing the first ten months of judicial appointments by former President Barack Obama vs. Trump.


“Nobody wants to talk about it,” he says. “But when you think of it ... that has consequences 40 years out.” He predicted at a recent Cabinet meeting, “A big percentage of the court will be changed by this administration over a very short period of time.”


Advocates for putting more women and racial minorities on the bench argue that courts that more closely reflect the demographics of the population ensure a broader range of viewpoints and inspire greater confidence in judicial rulings.

November 15, 2017 in Courts, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Study Shows Gender Under-representation on District Courts in 10th Circuit

Eli Wald, Judging Judges: A Study of US Federal District Judges in the 10th Circuit

This paper examines the demographics of federal district court judges in the 10th Circuit. Consistent with the glass-ceiling effect literature in positions of power and influence in the legal profession, the study finds that women judges are under-represented on the 10th Circuit bench compared with their numbers as lawyers in the jurisdictions of the Circuit. However, the study finds that minority judges are over-represented in the Circuit. The paper next explores the relationship between under-representation, over-representation and discrimination. Under-representation that cannot be explained in terms of merit criteria or informed opting out, such as the under-representation of women on the 10th Circuit, strongly suggests the lingering effects of past exclusion and discrimination, as well as the current effects of implicit bias. As demonstrated by the over-representation of minority judges, the political commission process can break through the gender glass-ceiling by over-representing qualified women judges in the short run until their overall numbers better reflect equality.

November 8, 2017 in Courts, Judges, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)