• Group issues seven recommendations, more possible, court spokesperson says • Recommendations are solid; time will tell if they’ll work, professor says
The Ninth Circuit committee investigating workplace conduct has made a serious effort to come up with workable recommendations to promote a safer work environment, but only time will tell if they’ll work, a federal courts scholar told Bloomberg Law.
The group released its seven recommendations May 21. They include creating a new position to deal with workplace harassment and discrimination issues, and developing workplace training for judges and court employees.
The recommendations are based on responses to almost 6,000 questionnaires sent to current and former court employees.
But the committee’s still sifting through responses, so it’s possible that they’ll have more recommendations in the future, a Ninth Circuit spokesperson told Bloomberg Law.
Yesterday’s announcement was an effort to be transparent about the work it’s doing, the spokesperson said.
The group’s outreach, leadership, and the breadth of its recommendations are impressive, but the proof “will ultimately be in the pudding,” Professor Charles Gardner Geyh said.
Geyh teaches at Indiana University Bloomington’s Maurer School of Law. His scholarship includes judicial conduct and ethics.
Ninth Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown was a good choice to lead the project, Geyh said.
McKeown is also a member of a working group created by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in January to investigate sexual harassment in the judiciary.
That group and the Ninth Circuit’s committee were formed following explosive allegations of sexual harassment by former clerks and others against Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski.
Kozinski announced his immediate resignation in December 2017, following those revelations and a judicial investigation into his behavior.
The committee’s recommendations also include:
* Providing multiple ways for employees to seek informal advice on workplace issues;
* Providing assisted resolution of workplace disputes through voluntary mediation;
* Increasing the number of days for employees to bring a complaint under the employment dispute resolution policy from 30 to 180; and
* Revising the confidentiality policy to make clear that the confidentiality restriction doesn’t prevent employees from reporting misconduct.The revision to the confidentiality policy is important, Geyh said.
The earlier version could be “contorted to prevent employee-victims from mentioning their employer-assailants’ conduct,” he said.
This was a problem that arose when Konzinski’s clerk sought guidance from other judges, Geyh said.
That “was simply unacceptable,” he said.
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