Chief justice details efforts to combat workplace misconduct

Legal Issues

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is using his annual report on the federal judiciary to highlight the steps the branch has taken to combat inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

In December 2017, Roberts asked that a working group be put together to examine the judiciary's workplace conduct policies. His request followed news reports about prominent federal appeals court judge Alex Kozinski, who retired following accusations by women, including former law clerks, that he had touched them inappropriately, made lewd comments and shown them pornography.

The working group of judges and judiciary officials that Roberts asked be convened issued a report in June, finding that inappropriate conduct is not widespread among the judiciary branch's 30,000 employees but also is "not limited to a few isolated instances." The group offered a range of recommendations for further action.

Roberts, in his New Year's Eve report, endorsed those recommendations, which focus on revising the codes of conduct the judiciary has for judges and employees, streamlining the process for identifying and correcting misconduct, and expanding training programs aimed at preventing inappropriate behavior.

Roberts did not say anything in the report about the sexual assault allegations that nearly derailed the confirmation of the court's newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh. In testimony before senators in September, psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford alleged that a drunken Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party decades ago when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh denied the allegations.

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