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Sexual Misconduct: Trouble in the Courts

June 19, 2018

It is no secret, thanks to the #MeToo movement and other public opportunities afforded victims of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, that the number of women who have been victimized at their places of employment is staggering. According to one survey, 14 million women admitted to being victims of sexual abuse and 33 million women said they were the target of sexual harassment at their places of employment. It now turns out that the hallowed halls of justice, our nation’s courts, have been hiding their own dirty little secrets about sexual harassment.

Congress focuses on the case of a federal appeals court judge in California

News reports at the end of last year revealed that a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had been the subject of complaints from at least six law clerks and staff members who had worked directly for the judge or in the court over the years. The allegations against the judge included showing what the victims described as pornographic images to them on his office computer or suggesting that one employee might try working out naked at the courthouse gym.

The judge denied any wrongdoing or inappropriate behavior. Some of the victims, however, produced emails they sent at the time of the incidents to friends and coworkers documenting the allegations.

The latest allegations were not the first time the judge had been accused of inappropriate conduct in the workplace. Several years ago, allegations were made about his email distribution of jokes, including some that were described as sexually explicit, to co-workers and others. An investigation at the time concluded without any disciplinary action being taken against the judge after he stopped sending jokes in emails and offered an apology to anyone he might have offended.

Retirement precedes an investigation

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee looking into the issue of sexual harassment and misconduct within the federal court system were concerned, according to a CNN report, about the apparent lack of movement toward identifying the extent of the problem and addressing methods for resolving it. When pressed to explain to committee members the extent of the problem, the individual speaking on behalf of the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts could not state with certainty how prevalent the problem of sexual harassment was in the system.

CNN found that few employees of the federal courts filed complaints. It concluded that part of the problem was that few complaints resulted in disciplinary action against the offender. When complaints are filed, according to CNN, the investigations end once the judge who is the subject of the complaint retires without any loss of pension rights. This is what occurred in the case of the 9th Circuit judge accused by his law clerk. He apologized, retired from the bench and retained his pension from more than three decades as a jurist.

Some senators have suggested taking the process of investigating complaints of sexual misconduct against judges away from the judicial system and replacing it with an outside inspector general. A Republican senator referred to the courts as “secretive enclaves” in their handling of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct complaints by the people working within the judicial system.

Contact us

One way victims of sexual assault, sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace can obtain relief is by pursuing a claim for damages with the dedicated attorneys at The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP. We have been aggressively pursuing claims for victims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse for more than 25 years. Our knowledge of the law and experience allow us to develop innovative strategies to obtain maximum compensation for our clients. Contact us today by calling (949) 502-8600 or use the form on our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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