In a letter sent last week to AO Director and Judiciary Working Group Chairman Jim Duff, Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (right) of the House Judiciary Committee requested a “bipartisan staff briefing” on the group’s progress, even as the group has blown past its scheduled completion date of May 1. Today, while Fix the Court applauds committee leadership for staying abreast of working group developments, FTC is asking why such a briefing be limited to the committee and not be offered in an open setting before the American people.
“Since the working group was formed in January, Republicans and Democrats in both houses have advocated for thoughtful and appropriate fixes to the endemic problem of inappropriate conduct in the third branch,” FTC executive director Gabe Roth said. “But why is Congress requesting a private briefing? The judiciary’s constituency comprises all Americans, and the public deserves an open hearing on how the courts plan to eliminate harassment from its ranks.”
Further, even though the Goodlatte-Nadler letter rightly asks if the working group “anticipate[s] making recommendations for legislative reform,” the answer from the AO is all but a foregone conclusion. Those who follow the courts know that in spite of hundreds of years of legislation that have improved their work – from the Judiciary Act of 1789 to the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 – the AO reflexively rejects nearly any legislative proposal that comes its way, which in this case, Fix the Court believes to be a mistake. (Read a summary of FTC’s proposed fixes to the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act here.)
Fix the Court heard from one judiciary source earlier this year that given the prevalence of harassment allegations among committee members themselves – recall that Reps. John Conyers, Blake Farenthold and Trent Franks and Sen. Al Franken were all on the Judiciary Committee – having an open hearing on the topic in any iteration would be unlikely. That all four have since resigned reduces the already scant validity of such an excuse.
For the Feb. 9 letter that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein have sent to the working group, please see this link. Here is Duff’s Feb. 16 response to that letter and his Mar. 8 follow-up.