Chief Justice’s Workplace Conduct Group Takes Shape

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg

A new working group to address inappropriate workplace conduct in the federal judiciary made its debut Jan. 12, weeks after explosive allegations of sexual harassment against Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski emerged.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. announced in his year-end report on the federal judiciary that he had asked the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, James C. Duff, to assemble the group.

“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.

The federal judiciary is the latest segment of the workforce to take steps to evaluate its workplace conduct policies after allegations of sexual misconduct have surfaced. The entertainment, media, and sports industries, as well as politicians in all levels of government, have also been roiled by such reports.

Two weeks before Roberts’s report, Kozinski announced his immediate resignation following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and a judicial investigation into his behavior.

And the Members Are . . .

The working group comprises seven members, four of whom are women. The members include current and former judges.

Duff will chair the committee. According to the AO’s press release, its members are:

• Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Howard is a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

• Judge M. Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit. McKeown chaired the Judicial Conference Codes of Conduct Committee.

• Chief Judge Julie A. Robinson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. Robinson was a member of the committee that developed the 2010 and 2015 Strategic Plans for the Federal Judiciary, which dealt with workplace issues, ethics, and integrity.

• Judge Sarah S. Vance of the Eastern District of Louisiana. Vance also was a member of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

• Margaret A. Wiegand, Circuit Executive for the Third Circuit. In that role she supports the Chief Circuit Judge in administering the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act and manages and supports the workplace complaint process under the Consolidated Equal Employment Opportunity and Employee Dispute Resolution Plan.

• Jeffrey P. Minear, Counselor to the Chief Justice for the past 11 years.

• John S. Cooke, Deputy Director of the Federal Judicial Center for the last 12 years. In 2013–14 Cooke served on a committee established by the Secretary of Defense to study responses to sexual assault in the armed forces.

The group will consult with public and private entities as well as judicial employees on the state of the third branch’s workplace conduct standards and procedures. It will then submit a written report and recommendations to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the press release said.
The Judicial Conference is the principal policy making body of the U.S. courts.