Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Podcast: The Ginsburg Tapes

The Ginsburg Tapes

The Ginsburg Tapes is a podcast about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s oral arguments in the Supreme Court—before she became #NotoriousRBG.

 

Specifically, from 1972-1978, Ginsburg argued six cases in the Supreme Court.  In each case, she and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project brought constitutional challenges to laws treating men and women differently.  Ginsburg’s goal was to show the ways in which laws which seemed on their face to benefit women actually perpetuated stereotypes and held women back from full participation in American life.

 

For all six cases, Lauren breaks down the real recordings of the oral arguments.  The tapes allow listeners to be a fly on the wall, to teleport to that moment in history.  Listeners can hear Ginsburg make her case, and listen to reactions from the all-male Supreme Court.  You’ll hear from liberal icons like Justice Thurgood Marshall and Justice William Brennan, and conservative icons like Chief Justice Warren Burger and then-Justice William Rehnquist, as they grapple out loud with what the Constitution means.  In each episode, Lauren talks about history, effective advocacy, constitutional change, the power of the Supreme Court, and gender equality.

January 17, 2019 in Constitutional, Judges, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Remembering Judge Patricia Wald, First Woman on the DC Circuit

Patricia Wald, Pathbreaking Federal Judge Who Became Chief of DC Circuit, Dies at 90

Shortly before she graduated from Yale Law School in 1951, Patricia Wald secured a job interview with a white-shoe firm in Manhattan. The hiring partner was impressed with her credentials — she was one of two women on the law review — but lamented her timing.

 

“It’s really a shame,” she recalled the man saying. “If only you could have been here last week.” A woman had been hired then, she was told, and it would be a long time before the firm considered bringing another on board.

 

Gradually, working nights and weekends while raising five children, she built a career in Washington as an authority on bail reform and family law. Working for a pro bono legal services group and an early public-interest law firm, she won cases that broadened protections for society’s most vulnerable, including indigent women and children with special needs.

 

She became an assistant attorney general under President Jimmy Carter, who in 1979 appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — often described as the country’s most important bench after the U.S. Supreme Court. She was the first woman to serve on the D.C. Circuit and was its chief judge from 1986 to 1991. Later, she was a member of the United Nations tribunal on war crimes and genocide in the former Yugoslavia.

 

Judge Wald, whom Barack Obama called “one of the most respected appellate judges of her generation” when he awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

January 16, 2019 in Courts, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Justice Sotomayor to Justice Kavanaugh: "I Judge You By What You Do Here"

Sonia Sotomayor: Brett Kavanaugh Part of Supreme Court Family

Justice Sonia Sotomayor in an interview with CNN's David Axelrod said that Justice Brett Kavanaugh was welcomed into the Supreme Court "family" in the wake of his polarizing confirmation process.

When you're charged with working together for most of the remainder of your life, you have to create a relationship," Sotomayor said in an "Axe Files" interview airing Saturday.

"The nine of us are now a family and we're a family with each of us our own burdens and our own obligations to others, but this is our work family, and it's just as important as our personal family. * * * 
Sotomayor said despite the contentious confirmation, she told Kavanaugh that the focus on him will settle on his actions as part of the court.
"It was Justice (Clarence) Thomas who tells me that when he first came to the Court, another justice approached him and said, 'I judge you by what you do here. Welcome.' And I repeated that story to Justice Kavanaugh when I first greeted him here," she said. * * *
Sotomayor, who was first confirmed to the court in 2009, also pushed back on the notion that Kavanaugh's presence cements a conservative tilt on the Court -- an institution she said is above "political terms."
"Conservative, liberal, those are political terms," she said. "Do I suspect that I might be dissenting  a bit more? Possibly, but I still have two relatively new colleagues, one very new colleague, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. And we've agreed in quite a few cases, we've disagreed in a bunch, But you know, let's see."
When asked modern political discourse, Sotomayor said too large of an emphasis has been put on differences rather than common "human values."
"We all have families we love, we all care about others, we care about our country, and we care when people are injured," she told Axelrod. "And unfortunately, the current conversation often forgets that. It forgets our commonalities and focuses on superficial differences whether those are language or how people look or the same God they pray to but in different ways.
"Those differences truly are not important," she added. "What is important is those human values we share and those human feelings that we share. But I worry that we forget about that too often."
 
And as she predicted, she subsequently joined Justice Gorsuch in their two-justice dissent. See Sotomayor Joins Gorsuch in Dissent from Cert Denial in Drunken Driving Case

November 19, 2018 in Judges, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judges' Subject Matter Expertise and Personal Ideologies May be Linked to More Gender Bias in Rulings

ABA J, Judges' Expertise May Correlated with More Gender Bias in Some Cases, Study Says

Judges' subject-matter expertise—and personal ideologies—may be linked to more gender bias in their rulings, according to a recent study of jurists and laypeople. The study asked respondents to read and decide how to resolve hypothetical custody cases and workplace discrimination claims with similar fact patterns but different races and genders assigned to parties. 

 

The study, conducted by Andrea Miller when she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the American Bar Foundation, surveyed 619 state court trial judges and 504 laypeople. A state supreme court—Miller did not disclose which one—provided administrative and financial support for the survey. Miller will share the results of the survey with the judges and help them rely less on their personal biases, according to a news release about the study.

 

“Judges tend to believe that their vast amount of legal training and logical thinking skills make them immune to these mistakes. This research is showing that judges are not as immune as maybe they think they are,” Miller, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in the news release about the study, which also examined race. The race-focused piece of her research will be published at a later date.

 

In the shared-custody hypothetical, judges were more likely than laypeople surveyed to give the mother more time with a child, the release said. The survey also asked the judges about their personal ideologies regarding gender roles after they made their rulings in the hypothetical cases. Those identified as supporting traditional gender roles, with women mostly confined to domestic caregiving roles and men in public, career-based ones, were more likely to give mothers more time in the custody hypotheticals, according to the study.

November 19, 2018 in Courts, Gender, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Women Hold All 10 Common Pleas Judge Seats in NE Ohio County

In my little corner of the world, 

Akron Beacon J., Women Rule in Summit County Claiming All 10 Common Pleas Judge Seats

Women rule in Summit County.

 

For what may be the first time in history, the Summit County Common Pleas bench – once all male – will be made up of all women after Tuesday’s election.

 

In the only male-female match-ups for Summit County Common Pleas Court, Kathryn Michael and Kelly McLauglin defeated Tom McCarty and Dave Lombardi, according to unofficial election results.

 

“The two men are going down in flames,” said McCarty, whose wife, Alison, is already on the common pleas bench.

 

These wins will mean all 10 judges on the common pleas bench will be women and, overall in Summit County, women will occupy just more than 70 percent of the elected judicial seats.

 

“That will put us in the most unusual position of any other county across the state of Ohio,” said Michael, an Akron judge who ran for a common pleas seat for the fourth time.

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

New Book: First, Sandra Day O'Connor

Evan Thomas, First: Sandra Day O'Connor (forthcoming 2019)

The intimate, inspiring, and authoritative biography of Sandra Day O’Connor, America’s first female Supreme Court justice, drawing on exclusive interviews and first-time access to Justice O’Connor’s archives—by the New York Times bestselling author Evan Thomas.

“She’s a hero for our time, and this is the biography for our time.”—Walter Isaacson

She was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her law school class in 1952, no firm would even interview her. But Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings—doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and cowgirl toughness.

She became the first ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona State Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When she arrived at the United States Supreme Court, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she began a quarter-century tenure on the Court, hearing cases that ultimately shaped American law. Diagnosed with cancer at fifty-eight, and caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, O’Connor endured every difficulty with grit and poise.

Women and men who want to be leaders and be first in their own lives—who want to learn when to walk away and when to stand their ground—will be inspired by O’Connor’s example. This is a remarkably vivid and personal portrait of a woman who loved her family, who believed in serving her country, and who, when she became the most powerful woman in America, built a bridge forward for all women.

October 31, 2018 in Books, Judges, Legal History, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judiciary Plan to Deal with Sexual Harassment is Not Enough, Say Attorneys and Law Professors

The Judiciary Has a Plan to Deal with Sexual Harassment. Law Students, Former Clerks, and Professors Say It's Not Enough.

The federal judiciary last month proposed a series of changes to its internal rules on sexual harassment and how the courts respond to complaints against judges. Former law clerks, ethics experts, and law students say they don’t go far enough.

 

The courts have been grappling with how best to police themselves in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against former prominent federal appeals judge Alex Kozinski, who resigned in December after a number of his former clerks accused him of inappropriate behavior. The proposed rules changes include requiring judges to report misconduct by their colleagues — and making it a disciplinable offense not to — adding stronger language defining and condemning harassment, and making clear that rules about court confidentiality don’t prohibit employees from reporting misconduct.

 

In the federal courts, judges run the discipline process, including handling sexual misconduct complaints against their colleagues. The #MeToo movement presents the latest test of whether these systems are strong enough to hold federal judges with lifetime tenure accountable and protect those working alongside them. (There is no binding code of conduct or disciplinary process for the US Supreme Court.)

 

At a public hearing Tuesday, witnesses testified that the draft changes were a good first attempt, but needed to be stronger and more specific. Kendall Turner and Jaime Santos, lawyers who have led a group of former federal law clerks pushing for reforms, testified that the judiciary should be more transparent about complaints against judges and how they’re resolved, bring in outside investigators to handle certain complaints, and do more to involve victims in the process.

 

Renee Knake, a legal ethics expert at the University of Houston Law Center, proposed adding a prohibition on consensual romantic relationships between judges and clerks and other employees, saying it would remove the risk of unwanted overtures and situations where a clerk or court employee felt pressured to agree to a date. She noted many law schools have similar policies. Knake also pitched an annual anonymous survey that includes past and current law clerks. ***

 

“No one should have to endure sexual harassment as a rite of passage into the legal profession,” said Knake, who told the judges that when she was in law school she was warned to avoid clerking for a judge known for mistreating clerks.

 

Carol Needham, a legal ethics expert at the Saint Louis University School of Law, pointed to proposed new language stating that judges “should” perform their “duties with respect for others, and should not engage in behavior that is harassing, abusive, prejudiced, or biased.” Needham suggested changing “should” to “shall” or “must,” saying that sentiment shouldn’t be “aspirational.”

October 31, 2018 in Courts, Equal Employment, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

First Woman Supreme Court Justice Announces Retirement from Public Life

O'Connor is a Pioneer Again As She Faces Dementia

Now, perhaps fitting of the pioneering tendency she has shown all around, the 88-year-old retired justice revealed on Tuesday that she is in "the beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer's disease."

 
In the letter written from Phoenix, as she explained that she was no longer participating in public life, she again surmounted the stigma that sometimes comes with illness.
"While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life," she wrote in the letter released by the Supreme Court.
  
O'Connor, who became an influential author of decisions on abortion rights, racial affirmative action, criminal procedures, and an array of social dilemmas during her quarter century tenure, also has had a deep personal imprint on American life.

October 24, 2018 in Judges, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Merchandising of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

ABA J, Supreme Icon: From Shirts to Action Figures to Movies and an Album, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has Become an Unlikely Pop Culture Icon

On the website Etsy, which sells crafts and vintage items, typing “Ruth Bader Ginsburg” into the search bar yields more than 1,000 results.

 

You can buy a birthday card with the associate justice’s image and the phrase “small and mighty” written in pink. There’s also a tank top bearing her stern visage and “I dissent” written underneath. There are posters of her as Rosie the Riveter, peg dolls of her in full judicial regalia and even prayer candles portraying her as “the Patron Saint of the Supreme Court.”

 

If Etsy isn’t your thing, you can find a Ginsburg action figure on Kickstarter, complete with gavel, pointing finger and her “iconic jabot,” a frilly, fancy-looking collar perfect for making “fashion and judicial statements.” The initial funding goal was $15,000. As of September, it had raised well over $600,000. “She is a rock star. She is an inspiration. She is constantly fighting. She is brilliant and fearless,” the introductory video to the Kickstarter page states. “She is an icon.”

 

The items aren’t all kitschy. There are plenty of posters, coffee mugs and shirts featuring inspirational and even strident quotes from her speeches and opinions. One oft-used line came from an interview she gave shortly after Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2009: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Another popular one for product designers is: “Fight for the things you care about.”

 

That latter quote was from a 2015 luncheon at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in Justice Ginsburg’s honor. Oftentimes, these products will leave off the last part of Ginsburg’s sentence, which was “but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” That outlook may explain why Ginsburg has become a cottage industry, generating countless products—none of which she has likely endorsed but has often been a good sport about.

 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a music album inspired by her life story. There are websites and memes that celebrate her jurisprudence, her fiery dissents and her dedication to civil rights, gender equality and social justice. There’s even a recent documentary and an upcoming Hollywood film chronicling her long and storied career as a litigator fighting on behalf of gender equality.

October 17, 2018 in Judges, Pop Culture, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

New Book -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life

New biography of Justice Ginsburg, out October 16, Jane Sharron de Hart, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life 

The first full life—private, public, legal, philosophical—of the 107th Supreme Court Justice, one of the most profound and profoundly transformative legal minds of our time; a book fifteen years in work, written with the cooperation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself and based on many interviews with the justice, her husband, her children, her friends, and her associates.

In this large, comprehensive, revelatory biography, Jane De Hart explores the central experiences that crucially shaped Ginsburg’s passion for justice, her advocacy for gender equality, her meticulous jurisprudence: her desire to make We the People more united and our union more perfect. At the heart of her story and abiding beliefs—her Jewish background. Tikkun olam, the Hebrew injunction to “repair the world,” with its profound meaning for a young girl who grew up during the Holocaust and World War II. We see the influence of her mother, Celia Amster Bader, whose intellect inspired her daughter’s feminism, insisting that Ruth become independent, as she witnessed her mother coping with terminal cervical cancer (Celia died the day before Ruth, at seventeen, graduated from high school).
 

From Ruth’s days as a baton twirler at Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, to Cornell University, Harvard and Columbia Law Schools (first in her class), to being a law professor at Rutgers University (one of the few women in the field and fighting pay discrimination), hiding her second pregnancy so as not to risk losing her job; founding the Women's Rights Law Reporter, writing the brief for the first case that persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down a sex-discriminatory state law, then at Columbia (the law school’s first tenured female professor); becoming the director of the women’s rights project of the ACLU, persuading the Supreme Court in a series of decisions to ban laws that denied women full citizenship status with men. 

 Her years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, deciding cases the way she played golf, as she, left-handed, played with right-handed clubs—aiming left, swinging right, hitting down the middle. Her years on the Supreme Court . . . 

 A pioneering life and legal career whose profound mark on American jurisprudence, on American society, on our American character and spirit, will reverberate deep into the twenty-first century and beyond.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by [de Hart, Jane Sherron]

October 3, 2018 in Books, Judges, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court Nomination and Opposition

Jill Lepore, Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Unlikely Path to the Supreme Court, New Yorker

God bless Ruth Bader Ginsburg, goats, bobbleheads, and all. But trivialization—R.B.G.’s workout tips! her favorite lace collars!—is not tribute. Female heroes are in short supply not because women aren’t brave but because female bravery is demeaned, no kind more than intellectual courage. Isn’t she cute? Ginsburg was and remains a scholar, an advocate, and a judge of formidable sophistication, complexity, and, not least, contradiction and limitation. It is no kindness to flatten her into a paper doll and sell her as partisan merch.

 

Doing so also obscures a certain irony. Ginsburg often waxes nostalgic about her confirmation hearings, as she did this September, when, regretting the partisan furor over Brett Kavanaugh—even before Christine Blasey Ford came forward—she said, “The way it was was right; the way it is is wrong.” The second of those statements is undeniably and painfully true, but the first flattens the past. What Biden was getting at, in 1993, was what the President himself had said, dismissing the idea of nominating Ginsburg when it was first suggested to him. “The women,” Clinton said, “are against her.” ***

 

And so when Clinton, eager to please, entertained names proposed by women’s groups, he learned that some of them refused to support Ginsburg, because they were worried that she might be willing to overturn Roe (which is not what she had written, but one gathers that the Madison Lecture was more often invoked than read). At one point, Clinton asked Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to suggest a woman. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Moynihan answered. “The women are against her” was the President’s reply. Moynihan called Martin Ginsburg and said, “You best take care of it.

October 3, 2018 in Judges, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

UK Top Judge Says Women Judges Make Better Decisions

UK's Top Judge Justice Brenda Hale: Female Judges Make Better Decisions

One of the world's top judges says female judges improve the quality of judicial decisions.

 

And she admits, in an exclusive New Zealand interview with the Herald, it may be viewed as a "controversial" comment.

 

I was one of only six [female] law school students," the 73-year-old said.

 

"At that stage the first woman High Court judge in England had only just been appointed."

 

However, she said courts still don't have enough women serving on the bench.

 

"This is the most controversial," she went on to say. "Do women make different decisions from men? To which the answer is, having women on the court improves the quality of decision making," she said.

 

"It improves the quality of debate, it makes certain things much more difficult to say and do, counters sub-conscious biases, we all have them ... and just from time to time, having a woman's voice on a decision makes a difference."

 

She explained a woman's life experience allowed for better decision-making.

September 27, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

UK Highest Court will Have a Female Majority Hear a Case for the First Time in 600 Years

Female Majority to Hear Supreme Court Case for First Time in History

The UK's highest court is to have a female majority hear a case for the first time in 600 years.

Almost one hundred years after a law was passed allowing women to practice as barristers, three women and two men will decide a case in the highest court in the country.

Three of the five judges who are set to hear a Supreme Court case on October 3 about a 16-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome and learning difficulties are female.

Lady Hale, the court's first female president, has previously spoken out about the need for more women at the top of the judiciary. Earlier this year she said women were "seriously underrepresented" among senior judges, warning that women were forced to move into the public sector because of the difficulty of combining high-flying legal jobs with family and caring responsibilities.

September 19, 2018 in Courts, International, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Judicial Phenomenon Ruth Bader Ginsburg Celebrates 25 Years on the Court

Joan Biskupic, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Now a Judicial Phenomenon, Marks 25 Years on the Bench

The documentary "RBG," co-produced by CNN, has made $13.5 million at the box office, according to comScore, and will be broadcast next month on the network. Oscar nominee Felicity Jones will play her in a feature film, "On the Basis of Sex," in December.
 
The justice said recently that she hopes to stay on the Supreme Court at least five more years, when she'll be 90. She has survived two bouts with cancer, colorectal in 1999 and pancreatic in 2009.
 
Ginsburg's celebrity might not have been predicted when President Bill Clinton chose her for the high court in summer 1993. Then a 60-year-old federal appellate judge, she was not Clinton's first choice. He was looking for a flashier appointee and initially tried to woo former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to the bench.
 
Ginsburg, with her large-rimmed glasses, hair tied back in a short ponytail, presented the picture of seriousness. She spoke of taking "measured motions" as a jurist. Supporters portrayed her as a night owl who spent hours hunched over law books and legal briefs, tepid coffee and prunes at hand. Her daughter created a little book titled "Mommy Laughed," chronicling the few times it happened.
 
Once on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg was a sharp questioner and meticulous opinion-writer. She leaned in but without the attention-getting style of the first female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, or gregarious longtime pal Antonin Scalia.
 
She was hardly a liberal in the mode of contemporary justices on the left: William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall or Harry Blackmun. But as the court changed over the years and became more conservative with each retirement, she found herself carrying the banner for the left.

August 14, 2018 in Judges, Legal History, Pop Culture, SCOTUS, Women lawyers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The 411 on the Second New Ruth Bader Ginsburg Movie "On the Basis of Sex"

Absolutely cannot wait for this.  (Coming in December).  So cool that the costumes (at least in the trailer) closely align with the archival photos.

On the Basis of Sex Official Movie Site

Felicity Jones is Ruth Bader Ginsburg in New Trailer for "On the Basis of Sex"

Felicity Jones makes a damn good Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Jones plays the iconic Supreme Court justice in the upcoming film based on RBG’s life, “On the Basis of Sex.” A new trailer for the film follows a young Ginsburg as she starts law school at Harvard, where she was only one of nine other female students in her class.

“Protests are important, but changing the culture means nothing if the law doesn’t change,” Ginsburg says to political activist and fellow lawyer Dorothy Kenyon (Kathy Bates) in the trailer. 

"On the Basis of Sex" Trailer: Can Felicity Jones Handle Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Accent?" [sic the NYT's headline snark]

A biopic of the Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could hardly seem timelier, given the current headlines about President Donald J. Trump’s new nominee for the high court, Brett Kavanaugh, as well as the surprise box-office success of the recent documentary “RBG.” But based on the first trailer for “On the Basis of Sex,” fictionalization may prove stranger than truth in this case.

For two years, Natalie Portman was slated to play Justice Ginsburg, but dropped out in 2017, only to be replaced by Felicity Jones. Ms. Jones was born in Birmingham, England, and initial impressions indicate she may not have nailed Ms. Ginsberg’s distinctive Brooklyn accent.

Felicity Jones is Ruth Bader Ginsburg in First Trailer for "On the Basis of Sex"

Felicity Jones Transforms into Young Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Trailer

July 26, 2018 in Judges, Legal History, Media, Pop Culture, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Today on Sexual Harassment by Judges

Watch the hearing here on CSPAN Senate Committee Examines Workplace Misconduct in the Federal Judiciary, June 13, 2018

Joan Biskupic, CNN, Senate Judiciary Committee Takes up #MeToo in the Courts

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony related to judicial misconduct on Wednesday, including from a Washington lawyer who says she collected numerous accounts of sexual harassment by judges, in the first public airing of US judges' #MeToo moment.

Jaime Santos says that after women went public last December with complaints against California-based US Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski, she and colleagues began trying to address the larger harassment issue by talking to women who had worked closely with federal judges in prestigious law clerk positions.
"Harassment and abuse within the judiciary are not the rule, but these experiences are not uncommon," Santos, who is a former law clerk from the 9th Circuit, where Kozinski served, says in prepared testimony. "Law clerks and externs from numerous federal courts shared with us that they had felt demeaned, belittled, or humiliated during their clerkships or externships.
 
"Some shared stories about being asked sexual questions during job interviews, hearing their judge or co-clerks speak about female attorneys in derogatory and objectifying terms, and being groped or kissed in public and in private."
 
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 judiciary's misconduct 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.
 
On Wednesday the Senate committee is also scheduled to hear from James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the US Courts, who oversaw a group set up to examine judicial misconduct. Chief Justice John Roberts established the working group in December after The Washington Post first reported complaints from women against Kozinski.
 
In his prepared remarks, Duff highlights the group's proposal for a national Office of Judicial Integrity, with a hotline for employees to seek counseling, guidance and intervention if harassed. Duff also says the current process for reporting complaints against judges "works well when utilized." He said officials are trying to make it easier to use.
The working group reported earlier this month that "inappropriate conduct" in courthouses is "not limited to a few isolated instances," but the group did not detail the magnitude of employee abuse beyond saying it was "not pervasive."
It did make several recommendations, including that judges put a greater priority on improving workplace culture, the code of conduct be revised to make clear what behavior is prohibited and the complaint system be made more transparent and accessible.
 

Live tweeting commentary on the hearing by Courtney Milan (pen name of former law prof and Kozinski judicial clerk Heidi Bond) @courtneymilan 

For more on the Working Group Report from the committee which studied the issue:

The Federal Judiciary Working Group Issues Its Report on Workplace Sexual Misconduct

Working Group Recommends Changes to Prevent Workplace Harassment in the Judiciary

June 13, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Legislation, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Federal Judiciary Committee Issues its Report on Workplace Sexual Misconduct

Workplace Changes Recommended for Judiciary

The Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, a group of federal judges and senior Judiciary officials formed at the request of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., issued a report recommending measures to improve workplace conduct policies and procedures in the federal Judiciary. The Working Group submitted its findings to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal Judiciary’s policy-making body. The report and an executive summary are available online.

 

The recommendations include clarifying workplace standards and communications about how employees can raise formal complaints, removing barriers to reporting complaints, providing additional and less formal avenues for employees to seek expert advice and assistance on workplace conduct issues, and utilizing enhanced training on these subjects for judges and employees.

 

Several recommendations of the Working Group have already been implemented or are underway, such as clarifying that confidentiality rules in the Judiciary do not prevent law clerks or employees from reporting misconduct by judges. Many of the report’s recommendations require further action by the Judicial Conference.  

The report is here.

Commentary by Joan Biskupic, CNN, Judicial "Inappropriate Conduct" Broader than Isolated Incidents, Panel Finds

A special US judiciary working group set up last December after a prominent appeals court judge was accused of sexual harassment reported on Monday that "inappropriate conduct" in the nation's courthouses is "not limited to a few isolated instances."

 
Yet the eight-member group -- which met with scores of former and current employees of the judiciary and invited comment nationwide -- did not detail the magnitude of employee abuse in the US judiciary beyond saying it was "not pervasive." The group also did not note whether, during its five months of study, any action was taken against individual judges or other court employees.
The working group, which was established by Chief Justice John Roberts, made several recommendations in its report, including that:
  • judges should put a greater priority on improving workplace culture
  • the code of conduct should be revised to make clear what behavior is prohibited
  • the complaint system should be made more transparent and accessible.

June 11, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Public Perceptions of Gender Bias in the Decisions of Female State Court Judges

Michael P. Fix & Gbemende E. Johnson, Public Perceptions of Gender Bias in the Decisions of Female State Court Judges, 70 Vanderbilt L. Rev. 1845 (2017)

How are women on the bench, and their decisions, perceived by the public? Many scholars find that gender influences the voting behavior of judges and the assessment of judges by state judicial systems and the American Bar Association. However, few scholars have examined how judge gender affects the way in which the public responds to judicial outcomes. Does the public perceive the decisions of female state court judges as being “biased” by their gender identity, particularly in cases involving reproductive rights/family law? Also, does the public view female judges on state courts as more likely to rely on ideology when ruling in cases? Using a survey experiment that varies judge gender in a state child custody case, we examine whether respondents exhibit less support for judicial decisions authored by female state court judges. Additionally, we test whether respondents are more likely to perceive the decisions of female state court judges as ideologically biased or as a product of gender influences (as compared to male judges). Finally, we assess whether these effects are conditional on or exacerbated by respondent characteristics such as gender, race, and religiosity. The influence of gender on public response to state court decisions has important implications for our understanding of why certain court decisions find public support and acceptance.

April 3, 2018 in Courts, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Evaluating Leadership Patterns of Modern Canadian Chief Justices

Cindy Ostberg & Matthew Wetstein, Strategic Behavior and Leadership Patterns of Modern Chief Justices

This study uses theories of strategic behaviour, leadership change and feminist theory to examine patterns of judicial activity by the three post-Charter chief justices. Building on prior scholarship, we use various methods to examine patterns of majority voting, dissenting activity, opinion writing, ideological voting, and panel size across the 1973-2014 period. While Chief Justice Lamer and Dickson exhibited clear patterns of task leadership, we find strong evidence of strategic change by Chief Justice McLachlin after her promotion to chief. She moved from a prolific dissenter as an associate justice to a chief that exhibited behaviour of both a task and social leader, which scholars see as highly uncommon. Her efforts to solidify her central role as a collegial leader within her own court are remarkable, and took place during a period of increasing panel sizes and a shrinking court docket.

March 22, 2018 in Courts, International, Judges | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Update on Work of Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group on Sexual Harassment

Judicial Conference Receives Status Report on Workplace Conduct Review

Nearly 20 reforms and improvements have been implemented or are under development to help address workplace conduct concerns in the federal judiciary, James C. Duff, Chair of the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, reported today at the biannual meeting of the Judicial Conference.

 

In introducing Duff before he delivered his report, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who is the Conference's presiding officer, told the group, "I would like to reiterate what I stated in my year-end report. I have great confidence in the men and women who comprise the federal judiciary. I am sure that the overwhelming number have no tolerance for harassment and share the view that victims must have a clear and immediate recourse to effective remedies. The Work of this group will help our branch take the necessary steps to ensure an exemplary workplace for every court employee."

 

“Any harassment in the judiciary is too much,” Duff said in his report to the Conference. He told the Conference that the Working Group hopes to simplify and develop additional options, at both the national and local levels, for employees to seek assistance with workplace conduct matters. . . . 

 

Representatives of current and former law clerks and a cross-section of current judiciary employees met with the Working Group at its most recent meeting and had what Duff described as "an informative and productive discussion."

 

The Working Group also is receiving input via a mailbox on uscourts.gov, through which current and former judiciary employees can submit comments relating to the policies and procedures for protecting all judiciary employees from inappropriate workplace conduct.... 

 

The following either have been accomplished or are in progress:

  • Provided a session on sexual harassment during the ethics training for newly appointed judges in February.
  • Established an online mailbox and several other avenues and opportunities for current and former judiciary employees to comment on policies and procedures for protecting and reporting workplace misconduct.
  • Added instructive in-person programs on judiciary workforce policies and procedures and workplace sexual harassment to the curricula at Federal Judicial Center programs for chief district and chief bankruptcy judges this spring and upcoming circuit judicial conferences throughout the country this spring and summer.
  • Removed the model confidentiality statement from the judiciary’s internal website to revise it to eliminate any ambiguous language that could unintentionally discourage law clerks or other employees from reporting sexual harassment or other workplace misconduct.
  • Improve law clerk and employee orientations with increased training on workplace conduct rights, responsibilities, and recourse that will be administered in addition to, as well as separately from, other materials given in orientations.
  • Provide “one click” website access to obtain information and reporting mechanisms for both Employment Dispute Resolution (EDR) and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act (JC&D) claims for misconduct.
  • Create alternative and less formalized options for seeking assistance with concerns about workplace misconduct, both at the local level and in a national, centralized office at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, to enable employees to raise concerns more easily.
  • Provide a simplified flowchart of the processes available under the EDR and JC&D.
  • Create and encourage a process for court employee/law clerk exit interviews to determine if there are issues and suggestions to assist court units in identifying potential misconduct issues.
  • Establish a process for former law clerks and employees to communicate with and obtain advice from relevant offices and committees of the judiciary.
  • Continue to examine and clarify the Codes of Conduct for judges and employees.
  • Improve communications with EDR and JC&D complainants during and after the claims process.
  • Revise the Model EDR Plan to provide greater clarity to employees about how to navigate the EDR process.
  • Establish qualifications and expand training for EDR Coordinators.
  • Lengthen the time allowed to file EDR complaints.
  • Integrate sexual harassment training into existing judiciary programs on discrimination and courtroom practices.
  • Review the confidentiality provisions in several employee/law clerk handbooks to revise them to clarify that nothing in the provisions prevents the filing of a complaint.
  • Identify specifically the data that the judiciary collects about judicial misconduct complaints to add a category for any complaints filed relating to sexual misconduct. The data shows that of the 1,303 misconduct complaints filed in fiscal year 2016, more than 1,200 were filed by dissatisfied litigants and prison inmates. No complaints were filed by law clerks or judiciary employees and no misconduct complaints related to sexual harassment.

March 14, 2018 in Equal Employment, Judges, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)