Leaders of the federal judiciary have had to backtrack after nearly three dozen law clerks and judge assistants affirmed in an informal survey that they had “witnessed wrongful conduct in the workplace.”
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said officials removed the question from a training registration form, sent last week to thousands of judiciary staffers who work for federal judges, but not before 34 of about 40 employees — nearly everyone who responded — indicated that they had observed some form of inappropriate behavior.
“This was an unfortunate administrative error. No more — no less,” David Sellers, a spokesman for the office, said in an email, adding that the question was too broad to elicit any meaningful information and that the number of responses was too small to reveal a trend. Some, Sellers said, referred to situations before employment with the federal court system.
The judiciary wants employees to “feel comfortable reporting any instances of wrongful conduct,” he said. “But a registration form was not the proper place to ask that type of question.”
Concerns about how the judiciary handles allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and other misconduct in courthouses have for the past several years been part of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s annual report on the federal judiciary. In his 2021 year-end report, Roberts acknowledged ongoing scrutiny from Congress but said the independent judicial branch is best positioned to resolve workplace complaints.
The judiciary has put in place a robust reporting system, expanded the Office of Judicial Integrity and hired workplace relations directors in each of the federal circuits, Roberts said. He noted that a previous internal study “recognized the seriousness of several high-profile incidents, but found that inappropriate workplace conduct is not pervasive within the Judiciary.”
Monday, January 17, 2022
Federal Courts are closed today in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
If you are looking for something to read, check out this article from the Washington Post about workplace misconduct in the federal court system: