Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is pushing to reassess how workplace misconduct is handled in the federal judiciary with the branch’s annual report.
Since December 2017, a working group, which was put together at Roberts’ request, has examined the judiciary’s workplace conduct policies.
In June 2018, the group noted that “inappropriate conduct is not widespread among the judicial branch’s 30,000 employees but also is not limited to a few isolated instances.” Because of this, the group went on to recommend various actions that could help change how such instances are dealt with and, hopefully, prevented in the future.
These actions included revising the existing code of conduct for the branch’s judges and employees, making the process of identifying and correcting misconduct more efficient, and offering preventative training programs.
The allegations against Kavanaugh included him drunkenly assaulting professor Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers. Despite the nature of these allegations, Kavanaugh was still confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Throughout the report, Roberts remained unbiased, going on to describe the judges within the branch as “caring and generous judges” who he said work “quietly and selflessly” to support the public good.
While there was no mention of the Kavanaugh case or Trump’s frequent criticism of the branch in the report, Roberts did not give the branch a “completely clean bill of health.”
The working group found that when misconduct does occur within the branch, it is not typically sexual harassment. Rather, it is “incivility or disrespect.” However, it still goes unreported.
Since the release of these findings, there have already been proposals to better handle cases of workplace misconduct. These include expanding the definition of misconduct and granting employees a longer timeframe to report their experiences.
The group will continue to monitor progress within the judicial branch through the end of this year.
“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,” Roberts wrote in his report.
It is certainly admirable that Roberts is using his position to call for change within the judicial branch. However, it is strange that there has been no mention of a sexual assault case that involved a newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice.
Perhaps small changes within the system will eventually lead to greater changes that the entire nation can see. But until then, we cannot brush sexual misconduct cases under the rug out of fear of being too political.
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