Chief Justice John Roberts Vows To Re-Evaluate Protections From Sexual Harassment In Courts

The "judicial branch is not immune" to misconduct, he says in end-of-year report.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts promised in his end-of-the-year report on the federal judiciary that misconduct policies would be re-evaluated with an eye to more effectively protecting employees from sexual harassment.

“Events in recent months have illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, and events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune,” Roberts said in the report released Sunday.

In the wake of months of sexual harassment complaints in Hollywood and the media industry, The Washington Post reported that female law clerks had accused prominent Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California of making sexual remarks or showing them pornography. Kozinski stepped down in mid-December. He apologized for his actions, but he also defended his “broad sense of humor.”

In 2018, the federal judiciary will carry out a “careful evaluation of whether its standards of conduct and its procedures for investigating and correcting inappropriate behavior are adequate to ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee,” Roberts said in his report.

He said he has already established a “working group” to examine codes of conduct concerning confidentiality and reporting misconduct, and rules for “investigating and processing misconduct complaints.”

Roberts said he is confident the “overwhelming number” of men and women in the judiciary “have no tolerance for harassment and share the view that victims must have clear and immediate recourse to effective remedies.”