A group formed to investigate workplace misconduct in the judicial branch will likely issue a report on its findings in May.

The committee officially designated workplace misconduct a priority for 2018-2020, only the second time the committee has used the designation, Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland said following the Judicial Conference‘s biannual meeting March 13. Cybersecurity was deemed the priority for 2016-2018, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts told Bloomberg Law.

The group is “on track” to meet the May deadline, Garland said.

Garland chairs the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference. The Judicial Conference is the self-described “policy-making body for the federal court system.”

Changes Underway

The eight-member group, which has met twice since its formation in January, has identified 18 initiatives to address workplace conduct.

These include:

  • Providing a session on sexual harassment during the ethics training for newly appointed judges. This was held in February.
  • Establishing an online mailbox and several other avenues and opportunities for current and former judiciary employees to comment on policies and procedures for protecting and reporting workplace misconduct.
  • Creating alternative and less formalized options for seeking assistance with concerns about workplace misconduct, both at the local level and in a national, centralized office at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, to enable employees to raise concerns more easily.
  • Examining and clarifying the Codes of Conduct for judges and employees.
  • Establishing a process for former law clerks and employees to communicate with and obtain advice from relevant offices and committees of the judiciary.

Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. announced the creation of the working group at the end of 2017 to address sexual harassment in the judiciary.

Roberts acted after former clerks raised allegations of sexual harassment last year against Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Kozinski, a Reagan appointee, served for decades on the California-based court. He resigned in December.

A group of nearly 700 current and former employees, led by Ninth Circuit clerks, asked Roberts in a letter last December for significant changes in workplace policies.

“In the past, clerks have been told to report any harassment to their judge or that any reports of harassment will be provided to their judge,” they wrote. “This system is flawed for a number of reasons, including that the judge may be the perpetrator of the misconduct or the clerk may be new to the environment.”

The working group plans to meet again in April.

—With assistance from Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson and Stephanie Russell-Kraft.