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FTC Statement Responding to Misconduct Complaint Against Magistrate Judge

Following the release of a Tenth Circuit Judicial Council order concerning the conduct of District of New Mexico Judge Garza, FTC executive director Gabe Roth released this statement:

The report exposes so many of the shortcomings the judiciary has regarding its workplace conduct policies.

That the victims said they “lacked confidence in the system and its ability to protect them” once they came forward with the allegations speaks volumes.

If judiciary staff openly state they feel unsafe in the environment they work in, that imperils the integrity of the branch and its ability to carry out its critical work.

What’s more, there’s an unfortunate bit of irony in the report. The Committee repeatedly cites Title VII precedents in determining whether Judge Garza’s conduct created a hostile work environment, yet the 31,000 staff members of the third branch do not themselves have protections under Title VII to sue for discrimination, harassment and retaliation, as Congress carved the judiciary out of that law.

Finally, many judges on judicial councils in the past have read the misconduct statute and the related regulations and concluded that once a judge has retired or otherwise left the bench, that’s the end of the story on misconduct investigations and reporting.

But the fact that the judges charged with looking into Garza’s behavior took the additional steps of identifying the problems and offering solutions shows a lightbulb went off somewhere: judges now realize that to understand and eradicate misconduct, one must first understand how it was allowed to take root and persist.

Throwing up your hands and washing yourself the problem — as happened in the Kozinski matter, where the judge retired before a full investigation took place, and the judiciary declined to conduct one on its own — is a huge disservice not only to victims but to future judiciary staff who might find themselves in similarly hostile environments but without a roadmap to get out.

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