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Law Students Put Pressure on Judiciary to Combat Sexual Harassment

Groups of students from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and Georgetown law schools sent a joint letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States. They expressed frustration at the slow progress of the judiciary to respond to the “widespread misconduct” within its ranks and declared their concern that the judiciary was an unsafe working environment.
The students recommended a national “climate survey” for clerks and other judicial positions as well as a national reporting option for clerks and employees instead of just within their individual circuits. They want to ensure that the identities of those individuals reporting misconduct are protected and that these individuals feel they can make the reports.
“The unique closeness of a chambers environment, the early career state of most law clerks, the importance of clerking relationships to future employment, and the opaqueness of available remedies have made law clerks extremely reluctant to report misconduct.”
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has not responded to the letter from the student groups.
The letter was prompted by and followed attorney Olivia Warren’s allegations of harassment against the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She testified at a U.S. House hearing on February 13th. Warren asserted that the late judge had harassed her while she was a clerk in 2018. She alleged that there are faults in new reporting mechanisms put into place in 2019. A 2018 report from the federal judiciary’s workplace conduct work group found that while inappropriate conduct was not “pervasive,” it also was not “limited to a few isolated instances.” 70 former Reinhardt clerks signed a letter of support for Warren, also asking for significant steps to prevent further harassment.