- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The chief administrator for the federal courts told lawmakers Wednesday that there’s less harassment within the judiciary than other industries.

James C. Duff, the director of the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, said that in his 42 years in Washington, he doesn’t think there’s been a single taxpayer payout to settle a sexual harassment claim with clerks or other judiciary employees.

He acknowledged there must be harassment, but put its pervasiveness on a scale of three or four out of 10.

“Whatever it is, it’s too much and we are going to do something about it,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He testified months after the #MeToo movement hit the country, exposing rampant harassment in Hollywood and major businesses and on Capitol Hill. And one prominent appeals court judge, Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, resigned after six women who had served as law clerks accused him of sexual harassment inside the federal courthouse.

Mr. Kozinski still collects his annual salary as retirement pay from the courts. The same is true for former District Judge Walter Smith Jr. of Waco, Texas, who retired in 2016 after a former clerk came forward and accused him of groping and kissing her in 1998. The San Antonio Express News says he’s paid $203,100 a year.

Mr. Duff’s working group was assembled to study the courts’ procedures for accepting harassment complaints and conducting investigations. It recommended expanding the time from 30 days to 180 days for employees and interns to file Early Dispute Resolution claims.

Critics, though, say the report failed to grasp how much of a problem sexual harassment is in the federal judiciary.

Jaime Santos, a lawyer for Goodwin Procter LLP, said clerks were discouraged from reporting allegations of wrongdoing because their complaints go to the chief judge of a circuit, who they expected to side with his or her fellow judge.

She also disagreed with Mr. Duff’s estimate of a low incidence of harassment.

“I know of federal judges who have been sitting on the bench in the last several months who it is commonly known have engaged in this behavior,” she told lawmakers.

Jenny Yang, a strategic partner at Working Ideal, a workplace consultant firm, called for an outside review of the judiciary to figure out the prevalence of sexual harassment.

“I really don’t believe you can fix the problem unless you have a baseline measure of what your problem is,” Ms. Yang said.

But Mr. Duff pushed back against the suggestion that the federal judiciary should have an Office of Inspector General, as other branches of the government have, saying it would hinder what his office is tasked with doing.

“It’s duplicative of resources we already spend in the federal government to audit our finances and secondly, with regard to misconduct, we have a very healthy review system. … Third, it’s unconstitutional,” Mr. Duff said.

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