After #metoo comes to the courts

    By: Kelsey Vuillemot on Jan 08, 2018

    Lara Bazelon writes, "The #MeToo movement reached the federal judiciary last month. Alex Kozinski, a longtime judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, Calif., abruptly resigned after some 15 former law clerks and staffers said he had engaged in sexual misconduct. With more 3,000 federal judges spread among 13 circuit courts, there will almost certainly be more cases like Judge Kozinski’s.

    So how should the notoriously secretive and clubby branch of government respond?

    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. took a long overdue step toward answering that question on Sunday when he announced that a working group would assess whether the judiciary’s disciplinary procedures are capable of addressing sexual harassment complaints and taking corrective action. The governing statute, passed by Congress in 1980, holds federal judges responsible for disciplining one another, save for the nine Supreme Court justices who are immune from any oversight.

    But this process is shrouded in secrecy, with embarrassing allegations swept under the rug and sanctions that are inadequate to the offense. If the judiciary is going to better police itself, it must overcome its historical impulse to shield bad actors from consequences they would not hesitate to mete out to people who don’t wear black robes.

    Federal judges have lifetime tenure under Article III of the Constitution. So removing a judge requires impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate after a trial. It’s no surprise that Congress has meted out this punishment only eight times in our country’s history, and never for sexual misconduct.

    For this reason, the only realistic way to hold judges to account for the kind of allegations that have torpedoed the careers of power brokers in other professions in the post-Weinstein era is through an internal process that allows judges to punish their colleagues with lesser sanctions like suspension, public rebuke or a recommendation that the offender step aside."

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    Released: January 8, 2018, 9:48 am
    Keywords: NAWL News


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