Chief Justice John Roberts is asking the federal judiciary to examine the policies that protect court employees from inappropriate behavior, a request that comes days after a federal appeals court judge retired in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.
In a memo circulated to federal judges, public defenders, law clerks and other staff on Wednesday, James Duff, the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said Roberts asked him to create a working group to look into “the sufficiency of the safeguards currently in place within the Judiciary to protect court employees, including law clerks, from wrongful conduct in the workplace.”
Duff said he plans to establish the working group in the coming weeks and will make recommendations to the chief justice by May 1.
In his memo, first reported by CNN, Duff also included the procedures for judicial branch employees to report instances of misconduct in the workplace, including sexual harassment.
“All of these resources are intended to help foster a safe, comfortable, and respectful workplace in the Judiciary,” Duff wrote. “I also encourage the courts to make full use of these resources and I also encourage all who are in the Judiciary to take action when they observe or encounter inappropriate conduct. Everyone who works in the Judiciary has recourse if they are subjected to inappropriate behavior.”
The memo follows the retirement of Alex Kozinski, a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who announced this week he is stepping down, effective immediately.
At least 15 women, including former law clerks, accused Kozinski of sexual misconduct, including inappropriate touching and making sexual comments. Some of the women said the federal judge made them watch pornography in his chambers.