Roberts’ year-end report focuses on sexual harassment in judiciary

January 3, 2019

Following the year of the #MeToo movement and the retirement of a former 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge accused of sexual harassment, Chief Justice John G. Roberts pushed in his most recent end-of-the-year report that more can be done to encourage judicial employees to report misconduct.

“Recent events have highlighted that the very qualities that make the position of law clerk attractive — particularly, the opportunity to work with a senior member of the legal profession in a position of mentorship and trust — can create special risks of abuse,” Roberts wrote in his 2018 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary.

The report was released the last day of 2018 and included an overview of workload in the district and circuit courts, as well as an assessment of the 2017 working group’s evaluations of the federal judiciary’s practices and safeguards to protect law clerks and other judiciary employees from inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Providing a brief update on the results of the working group’s efforts, Roberts endorsed its recommendations for the judiciary to revise its codes of conduct and other published guidance to delineate more clearly the obligations and responsibilities that promote appropriate behavior; strengthen and streamline its internal procedures for identifying and correcting misconduct; and expand its training programs to raise awareness of conduct issues, prevent inappropriate behavior, and promote judicial civility.

Roberts praised the members of the judicial branch who have implemented similar changes to strengthen the culture of accountability and professionalism. However, he noted that the shared resolve to protect all judiciary employees from improper workplace behavior was far from complete.

“While I am pleased that our Branch has mobilized to ensure that the Judiciary is the exemplary workplace that we all want, I also realize that the job is not yet done,” Roberts noted. “I have directed the Working Group to remain in place over the next year to monitor the progress and success of those efforts. The job is not finished until we have done all that we can to ensure that all of our employees are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.”

Addressing the workload of the federal courts, the chief justice mentioned that the number of filings remained nearly the same as the year prior.

At the Supreme Court, the total number of cases filed increased from 6,305 filings in the 2016 term to 6,315 filings in the 2017 term. Sixty-nine cases were argued and 63 were disposed of in 59 signed opinions, compared to 71 cases argued and 68 disposed of in 61 signed opinions in the 2016 term.

Filings fell 2 percent to 49,276 in the Federal Courts of Appeals, compared to the 16 percent drop in 2017. Criminal appeals and appeals of administrative agency decisions decreased by 1 percent and bankruptcy appeals declined 10 percent. 

Civil case filings in the U.S. district courts rose 6 percent to 282,936. Cases with the United States named as a defendant decreased 3 percent. Filings for criminal defendants increased 13 percent to 87,149.

Petitions filed in federal bankruptcy courts decreased 2 percent to 773,375. The 2018 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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