Untouchable Judges? What I've Learned about Harassment in the Judiciary, and What We Can Do to Stop It
UCLA Journal of Gender & Law, 29:1 (2022)
96 Pages Posted: 16 May 2022 Last revised: 14 Jul 2022
Date Written: April 28, 2022
Drawing from the author’s own experience of gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation during her clerkship and in the years following it by a former DC Superior Court judge, this article analyzes deficits in current federal and DC judicial reporting systems to demonstrate the urgent need for reform. The author argues that harassment in the judiciary is pervasive, due to both enormous power disparities between judges and law clerks, and various institutional barriers that perpetuate misconduct and discourage reporting. This article surveys existing methods of judicial discipline in both the Article III and DC Courts and argues that these provide insufficient redress for workplace misconduct. This article then discusses the Judiciary Accountability Act (JAA) (HR 4827/S 2553), which would finally protect judiciary employees, including law clerks and federal public defenders, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enabling employees to sue their harassers and seek damages for harm done to their careers, reputations, and future earning potential. Furthermore, the author argues that the DC Courts should be included in the JAA, because they are Article I courts created and regulated by Congress, and DC Courts judges are arguably federal judges for Title VII and disciplinary purposes. The author also proposes other reforms, which would both strengthen the JAA and provide additional protections to uniquely vulnerable judiciary employees. The author concludes by reflecting on her attempts to report the mistreatment she experienced, how the systems failed her when she tried to report, and her efforts to seek justice for herself and accountability for the misbehaving former judge.
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