Chief Justice Roberts addresses sexual harassment in judiciary

January 2, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts used his end-of-the-year report to highlight the “new challenge” of sexual harassment coming in 2018.

The 2017 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary was released the last day of 2017 and included an overview of workload in the district and circuit courts.

Roberts noted the judicial branch has not been immune from inappropriate and hostile behavior that has been found to plague white- and blue-collar workplaces. He did not mention specific examples but in December, 15 women accused Alex Kozinski, then-judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, of sexual harassment. A few weeks later, he retired and issued an apology.

In response, Roberts announced he wants the judiciary to evaluate its standards of conduct and procedures for investigating and correcting unwanted sexual advances. The Chief Justice has asked the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to assemble a working group to examine the federal judiciary’s practices and he expects the group will consider whether charges are needed.

“These concerns warrant serious attention from all quarters of the judicial branch,” Roberts wrote in his report. “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.”

Reviewing the workload of the federal courts, Roberts noted an overall decline in filings.

At the Supreme Court, the total number of cases filed decreased by 2.63 percent to 6,305 filings in the 2016 term, which extended to June 2017. Seventy-one cases were argued and 68 were disposed of in 61 signed opinions. This compares to 82 cases argued and 70 disposed of in 62 signed opinions in the 2015 term.

Filings fell 16 percent to 50,506 in the Federal Courts of Appeals. Criminal appeals fell 14 percent, appeals of administrative agency decisions decreased 5 percent and bankruptcy appeals declined 4 percent. 

Civil case filings in the U.S. district courts fell 8 percent to 267,769. Cases with the United States named as a defendant decreased 29 percent. Filings for criminal defendants changed little, slumping less than 1 percent to 77,018.

Petitions filed in federal bankruptcy courts slid 2 percent to 790,830. The 2017 total for bankruptcy petitions is the lowest since 2007, which was the first full year after the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and consumer Protection Act of 2005 took effect.




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