The United States government's judicial branch declared on Wednesday that it is ready to tackle the issue of sexual harassment in the judiciary system, however, its proposals did not entail hearing out the problems existing members are facing.
The director of the Administrative Office of the US Courts, James Duff, while addressing the Senate Judiciary Committee said that the agency has formulated a group, which is tackling sexual misconduct in the courts and has already come up with recommendations.
Duff added that the recommendations include establishing a hotline for staff to seek counseling, clarifying the process of filing sexual harassment complaints and identifying sexual harassment complaints as a separate category in annual statistics, according to HuffPost.
Reports state that Duff created the group in January after Supreme Court Justice John Roberts asked him too.
The group was formulated shortly after a prominent federal judge, Alex Kozinski, was accused by 15 women of allegedly making lewd comments and touching them in an inappropriate manner. Kozinski eventually announced his retirement.
Even though Duff's group has come up with plenty of recommendations, it, however, did not survey law clerks and other court employees about whether they had experienced any sort of sexual harassment in the workplace. The group, reportedly, only looked for recommendations for reforms with the help of an online mailbox. Reports state that group did not even include law clerks as members who could contribute to the discussion.
An associate at Goodwin Procter and former law clerk to two federal judges, Jaime Santos, while speaking about the issue said that the judiciary "missed the opportunity" to comprehend how frequent and serious the problem of harassment and abuse is in the system.
"The working group’s report is entirely forward-looking," she said. “You can’t solve a problem if you haven’t studied its scope. Employees are not going to feel comfortable coming forward to report harassment when the judiciary has expressed no willingness to study even the egregious allegations that led to the working group’s formation," HuffPost reported.
Santos, after the allegations against Kozinski, wrote a letter in December with over 650 signatures from current and former law clerks. The letter called for significant changes in the system to curb harassment of federal judicial employees, according to reports. The signees reportedly are advocating a national reporting system that court staff can gain access to.
Santos added that she has spoken to multiple law clerks and other court staff and has concluded that workplace harassment in judiciary system is still continuing.
"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,” she said. “Many knew of other law clerks or employees who had been subjected to harassing or abusive behavior in chambers as well."
Duff, when asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee of how serious the problem was, concluded that according to him the judicial branch "doesn't rank very high."
However, Santos said that the judiciary has no idea about the extent of ongoing harassment in the department.
"I don’t think the judiciary has any idea. We’re recommending a survey to find out what harassment or abusive behavior they’ve witnessed. The statement that this isn’t pervasive is just a guess," Santos added.