As has been widely reported, in his annual year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts addressed sexual harassment in the judicial branch, which was put in the spotlight recently with allegations against the abruptly- retired Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski:
“We have a new challenge in the coming year. 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. The judiciary will begin 2018 by undertaking a careful evaluation of whether its standards of conduct and its procedures for investigating and correcting inappropriate behavior are adequate to ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee.
“I have asked the Director of the Administrative Office to assemble a working group to examine our practices and address these issues. I expect the working group to consider whether changes are needed in our codes of conduct, our guidance to employees—including law clerks—on issues of confidentiality and reporting of instances of misconduct, our educational programs, and our rules for investigating and processing misconduct complaints. These concerns warrant serious attention from all quarters of the judicial branch. I have great confidence in the men and women who comprise our judiciary. I am sure that the overwhelming number have no tolerance for harassment and share the view that victims must have clear and immediate recourse to effective remedies.”
What about the policy for Ohio courts? I asked the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Public Information, and here is the answer I got:
“At the Supreme Court of Ohio, we have a clear policy in place to deal with claims of sexual harassment. If complaints of any kind of harassment are raised, we immediately investigate them and respond accordingly. Our intention is to provide a workplace and public space free from all forms of harassment. We take any claim of harassment very seriously and we have, in practice, in policy and in our communications to management, a zero-tolerance attitude to this issue. In fact, with regards to sexual harassment in particular, management of the Court just last month completed sexual harassment training, and all Court employees will be required to complete this training soon.
“As you know, Ohio has a decentralized court system. Each court is an independent employer. It is, therefore, the responsibility of each court to adopt and enforce its employment policies.
“The Ohio Supreme Court strongly urges each Court to conduct training and enforce policies, as we have, and to communicate with our administration for policy support and guidance. With guidance in mind, you also should know that the Ohio Judicial College this year will be offering an on-line training course on sexual harassment that will be available to the state court system.”