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FTC Responds to Senate Judiciary Hearing on Harassment in the Third Branch

Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth responds to today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing:

Today’s hearing, while a welcome step, showed just how far the judiciary needs to go to ensure its clerks and support staff have the resources to feel safe in their courthouses and that judges are given legitimate punishments once found to be harassers.

Unfortunately, neither I nor anyone working on these issues has a full grasp of how victims of harassment can come forward in a way that’s both supportive and confidential and is a marked improvement from what existed before the Kozinski scandal. That needs to be made clearer.

Several senators expressed their dismay today that judges who resign due to harassment allegations may keep their salaries, and though that’s mostly up to Congress to fix, the Administrative Office has a role to play beyond throwing up their hands and citing a narrow interpretation of the judicial misconduct law as the office is wont to do.

Finally, the judiciary’s tradition of opacity had long been seen as a positive, as no one wants judges or law clerks soliciting favors for rulings. But today that opacity is a liability, as we’ve learned how stubborn the third branch can be about adopting best practices in transparent modern governance.

So of all the proposed fixes to the third branch, a more open and robust program to combat and punish harassment, which includes safeguards for its most vulnerable employees, remains the most important one to undertake. I look forward to more work from the committee and the judiciary in that regard.

Fix the Court also expressed its appreciation today to former EEOC Commissioner Jenny Yang and former federal law clerk Jaime Santos for testifying today in such a candid and constructive manner.

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