Annual Judiciary Report Details Efforts to Combat Misconduct

Last year brought forth an increased focus on workplace sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. To address this issue, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., convened a working group to analyze misconduct within the judiciary and offer recommendations for action. Justice Roberts’ year-end report provides an update on the working group’s efforts and endorses plans for reform.

Justice Roberts notes in the report that while the working group found the judiciary does not have a pervasive problem with inappropriate workplace conduct, the issue is not limited to a few isolated instances.

The working group provided three critical recommendations for reform which Justice Roberts endorsed in his annual report. These reforms include a revised code of conduct that more clearly outlines obligations and responsibilities to promote appropriate behavior, a streamlined internal process for identifying and correcting misconduct, the incorporation of a more informal alternative mechanism for employees to seek guidance, and an expansion of training programs to raise awareness of conduct issues, prevent inappropriate behavior, and promote civility throughout the Judicial Branch.

Justice Roberts spent a considerable amount of the report discussing the importance of law clerks and the need to maintain a safe, comfortable work environment for them and all judiciary employees.

The working group will remain active in 2019 to monitor the progress of these changes.

The expanded focus on misconduct in the judiciary comes after several law clerks accused prominent U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski of inappropriate sexual conduct. Judge Kozinski has since retired.  Additionally, last year a Merit Systems Protection Board Office of Policy and Evaluation research brief reported that one in five women in the federal government experience some form of sexual harassment.

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