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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts launches working group to examine sexual harassment protections

010118 Federal Courts Sexual Harassment Working Group photo
"Events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune" to sexual misconduct in the workplace, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said in his 2017 State of the Judiciary Report. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts announced Sunday he created a working group to examine protections against sexual harassment in the judiciary.

Roberts said the working group will explore whether proper procedures exist in the federal court system to protect law clerks and other employees from sexual harassment.

“Events in recent months have illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, and events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune,” Roberts said in his 2017 State of the Judiciary Report.

“The judiciary will begin 2018 by undertaking a careful evaluation of whether its standards of conduct and its procedures for investigating and correcting inappropriate behavior are adequate to ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee.”

Roberts acted after a group of nearly 700 former and current law clerks sent him a letter asking he and other court officials to investigate the issue.

Concerns grew following allegations of sexual misconduct made last month in the Washington Post against Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Kozinski retired Dec. 18 because of allegations he had acted improperly towards former law clerks and other women.

The working group of law clerks requesting action said they are particularly concerned about confidentiality rules employed by federal courts related to reporting cases of misconduct. The clerks recommended creating a national reporting system that would allow a court employee to report harassment incidents.

Roberts said he expects the working group “to consider whether changes are needed in our codes of conduct, our guidance to employees — including law clerks — on issues of confidentiality and reporting of instances of misconduct, our educational programs, and our rules for investigating and processing misconduct complaints.”

Roberts charged James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, to organize the working group. CNN reported that Duff will report back by May 1.