Federal judiciary revises codes of conduct after study

By Jessica Gresko
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal judiciary this week revised its codes of conduct for judges and judicial employees to more clearly spell out inappropriate workplace behavior, including sexual harassment.

The changes also make clear that judges and judiciary employees have a responsibility to report misconduct and that retaliating against anyone for reporting misconduct is unacceptable.

The changes approved by the policymaking body for the federal court system, the Judicial Conference of the United States, take effect immediately and come after more than a year of study and work.

In December 2017, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts asked that a working group be assembled to examine the judiciary’s workplace conduct policies.
His request came after news reports about 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge Alex Kozinski, who retired following accusations by women, including former law clerks, that he had touched them inappropriately, made lewd comments and shown them pornography.

The working group of judges and judiciary officials that Roberts asked be convened issued a report in June 2018.

It found inappropriate conduct in the federal judiciary is “not pervasive” but also “not limited to a few isolated instances” and made recommendations for further action.

One of the recommendations was revising the codes of conduct. The report also recommended streamlining the process for identifying and correcting misconduct and expanding training programs aimed at raising awareness of and preventing inappropriate behavior.

As part of its response to those recommendations, the federal judiciary has created an Office of Judicial Integrity where employees can go for advice and assistance with workplace conduct issues and to report harassment or abusive behavior.

The office’s first head, Jill Langley, was hired in December. Individual courts are creating similar initiatives.