Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Senate Judiciary Committee Skeptical of Judiciary's Response to Sexual Harassment in Courthouses

Joan Biskupic, Senators Unhappy With Judiciary's Response to Sexual Harassment in Courthouses

Senators from both parties expressed frustration and concern on Wednesday about the US judiciary's response to sexual harassment in federal courthouses.

 

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley complained that judicial officials, who studied the problem for six months after claims of misbehavior against US Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski became public, produced only a "vague" report with no assessment of how widespread abuse might be.

 
Grassley, an Iowa Republican, warned that it might be time for an independent inspector general to oversee misconduct -- a proposal judicial officials have long fought as being unnecessary and a potential violation of the Constitution's separation of powers.
  
James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the US Courts, insisted that judges are sufficiently addressing sexual misconduct.
 
"It's not as prevalent as it is in other workplaces," Duff said. 
 
When Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, pressed him to be more specific and use a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being "off the charts" sexual offenses, Duff further hesitated but answered, "By comparison to the other workplaces, it's probably ... maybe ... whatever I say ... it's just a guess, maybe a 3 or 4."
 
The Judiciary Committee hearing offered the first forum for examining the third branch's response to sexual harassment claims and broader misconduct issues since complaints against the California-based Kozinski emerged in December. The Washington Post, which first reported on Kozinski, highlighted an account from a law clerk who said the judge had asked her to look at pornographic images on his office computer.
 
A CNN special report in January, examining about 5,000 judicial orders arising from misconduct complaints over the past decade, found that courthouse employees and others with potentially valid complaints against judges rarely use the complaint system, or get no relief when they do. Judges overseeing the system seldom find that a claim warrants an investigation or that a judge should be disciplined.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2018/06/senate-judiciary-committee-skeptical-of-judiciarys-response-sexual-harassment-in-courthouses.html

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