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Chief Justice Roberts Promises To Evaluate Sexual Misconduct Policies

Chief Justice John Roberts stands outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., in June, following new Associate Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch investiture ceremony, a ceremony to mark his ascension to the bench.
J. Scott Applewhite

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts released his annual report on the federal judiciary on Sunday.

In one section of the 16-page report, he promised a careful evaluation of the judiciary's sexual misconduct policies.

He said recent events have "illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace."

Roberts added, "Events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune."

As Vanessa Romo reported for The-Way last month, distinguished federal appeals court judge Alex Kozinski retired following accusations by women that he had touched them inappropriately, made lewd comments and shown them pornography.

"In a statement released by his attorney, the 67-year-old Kozinski partially apologized for his behavior but also tried to frame parts of it as a misunderstanding.

"The judge's career, which includes 32 years on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, appears to have been undone over 10 days, as 15 women continued to step forward with personal accounts of Kozinski allegedly making explicit remarks about them, exposing them to pornography or touching them inappropriately.

"Accounts from a combination of former female clerks and junior staffers about the abuses by Kozinski were first reported by The Washington Post. They subsequently led to a formal inquiry by the 9th Circuit — later reassigned to the 2nd Circuit. It is unclear what will happen with the investigation."

Looking ahead, Roberts wrote in his 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.

"I have great confidence in the men and women who comprise our judiciary," Roberts wrote. "I am sure that the overwhelming number have no tolerance for harassment and share the view that victims must have clear and immediate recourse to effective remedies."

In the year-end report, predominantly dedicated to the court system's handling of natural disasters, Roberts also highlighted the work of court employees following a year of destructive hurricanes.

The hurricanes brought flooding, power outages, infrastructure
damage, and individual hardship to Texas and Florida. But the judicial districts of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were especially hard hit. Judges and court employees responded in dedicated and even heroic fashion. They continued to work even in the face of personal emergencies, demonstrating their commitment to their important public responsibilities.

Roberts also mentioned the historic wildfires in California and their "smoldering consequences."

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Doreen McCallister
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
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