Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearing on federal court workplace harassment

Last week, Senator Charles Grassley promised to hold a hearing on the federal courts’ response to workplace harassment, which culminated in a working group report. The Washington Post reports on that hearing here.

From the story:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said in her opening statement that she was troubled by some aspects of the report.

“I’m also concerned that the working group’s report didn’t quantify the prevalence of sexual harassment in the judiciary and instead relied on previous EEOC data,” said Feinstein, using an acronym for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Grassley said in an interview that the report seemed like a way to “create the appearance of caring” while leaving “employees of the judicial branch without a vehicle for reporting abuses.”

The Iowa Republican said he would like to see an independent watchdog for the judiciary that could take and investigate reports of harassment. While Congress could theoretically get involved with legislation, he said, that might be difficult to accomplish in practice.

Grassley seeks hearing on federal courts’ approach to handling sexual harrassment

This week, the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group released its report and recommendations, which covered a range of workplace conduct including sexual harassment.

Senator Chuck Grassley is not impressed with the final report, stating that “The report lacked very serious proposals and, in a sense, just kind of kicked the can down the road.” He wants Congressional hearings on the matter.

Stay tuned.

Federal courts announce recommendations for workplace changes

The Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, formed in the aftermath of the Alex Kozinski scandal, has issued its report and recommendations.

From the press release:

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 entire report can be found here.

California judiciary readies new sexual harassment guidelines

In the wake of the federal court system’s formation of a working group to address sexual harassment in the judiciary, the California courts have formed their own working group to address the same issue. Among other things, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is pushing for a change to the current court rules that would require public disclosure of settlements for sexual harassment claims involving judges. Proposed new rules should be unveiled in the next few weeks.

Chief Justice releases 2017 Year-End Report

For law geeks with small children, the highlight of every New Years Eve is the quiet posting of Chief Justice Roberts’s Year-End Report on the federal courts website. It is a predictably comfortable document that invariably begins with a 200-year-old anecdote, proceeds through a single chosen topic in 10th-grade detail, and ends with a brief recitation of court statistics. In other words, it’s a little like Dave Barry’s annual year-end column, if that column were written by John Roberts instead of Dave Barry.

This year the Chief Justice’s focus is on court preparedness in the face of terror and natural disaster — an appropriate enough topic in light of last year’s hurricane season.  He also includes a short discussion of the courts’ forthcoming internal sexual harassment investigation.

Finally, some interesting statistical notes:

  • The Supreme Court’s docket fell again, with a little under three percent fewer filings and only 61 signed opinions.
  • Filings in the Courts of Appeal fell sixteen percent, but civil appeals were actually up one percent.
  • Filings in the federal district courts fell eight percent, and bankruptcy filings fell two percent.

I will probably have more to say on these figures in subsequent posts.  In the meantime, Happy New Year.