Wednesday, April 3, 2019
The Informal (yet Effective) Process of MeToo
Jessica Clarke, The Rules of #MeToo, Univ. Chicago Legal Forum (forthcoming)
Two revelations are central to the meaning of the #MeToo movement. First, sexual harassment and assault are ubiquitous. And second, traditional legal procedures have failed to redress these problems. In the absence of effective formal legal procedures, a set of ad hoc processes have emerged for managing claims of sexual harassment and assault against persons in high-level positions in business, media, and government. This Article sketches out the features of this informal process, in which journalists expose misconduct and employers, voters, audiences, consumers, or professional organizations are called upon to remove the accused from a position of power. Although this process exists largely in the shadow of the law, it has attracted criticisms in a legal register. President Trump tapped into a vein of popular backlash against the #MeToo movement in arguing that it is “a very scary time for young men in America” because “somebody could accuse you of something and you’re automatically guilty.” Yet this is not an apt characterization of #MeToo’s paradigm cases. In these cases, investigative journalists have carefully vetted allegations; the accused have had opportunities to comment and respond; further investigation occurred when necessary; and the consequences, if there were any at all, were proportional to the severity of the misconduct. This Article offers a partial defense of the #MeToo movement against the argument that it offends procedural justice. Rather than flouting due process values, #MeToo’s informal procedures have a number of advantages in addressing sexual misconduct while providing fair process when the accused person is a prominent figure.