Moira Donegan started the “Shitty Media Men” list, which gave rise to an opportunity for women to tell their stories, whether real, exaggerated or completely false, without challenge or question. Did it help? Sure, it destroyed a few careers of men about whom lies were spread, but isn’t it worth it if they stopped just one bad man? Surely you understand that there will be collateral damage of innocent people in the war for gender hegemony.
There’s a real problem in the federal judiciary. Whether you look at disgraced retired judge Alex Kozinski, who was accused of pernicious sexual harassment in 2017; the resignation of district court judge Carlos Murguia, who was reprimanded for his “inappropriate behavior”; the stymied inquiry into Kavanaugh’s behavior which disappeared because he left the D.C. Circuit when he got elevated to the Supreme Court; or the powerful testimony of Olivia Warren, who detailed the sexual harassment and abuse she was subjected to during her tenure at the Ninth Circuit by the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt, it is clear the legal industry needs to do something.
This fascinating extrapolation, from the brilliantly fertile legal mind of Kathryn Rubino at Above the Law, from two federal judges who are no longer on the bench, together with another for whom there was no hint of impropriety in his chambers, and another who is now deceased, but one (and despite some equivocation) and only one claim of sexual harassment is raised, is condemned.
No mention is made of Ninth Circuit and Court of Appeals executive, Cathy A. Catterson, who retired in 2017, coming to Judge Reinhardt’s defense.
He was known as the liberal lion of the 9th Circuit, but to those who knew him well his bark was much worse than his bite. Judge Reinhardt was devoted to his law clerks, many of whom, both male and female, he helped advance in their legal careers.
I cannot speak personally to the recent testimony by a former law clerk who told of her eight-month experience in chambers to a House Judiciary subcommittee. I regret that she believed this was the best way to air her grievances, almost two years after Judge Reinhardt’s death.
In contrast, the testimony of Olivia Warren has given rise to a new call to the Chief Justice of the United States to act for their protection.
We are frustrated by the slow progress in combatting [sic] misconduct in the judiciary, and we
urge immediate action on the aforementioned reforms. The brave testimony of Olivia Warren
is a reminder that these issues must not be ignored. We remain committed to ensuring the
federal judiciary is a safe workplace and hope to serve as a resource for future reforms.
This letter is signed by a host of groups from elite law schools:
- Harvard Women’s Law Association
- People’s Parity Project
- Stanford Law School for Gender Violence Prevention
- Women of Stanford Law
- Yale Law Women
- Yale Law School Title IX Working Group
As their complaint makes clear, they too see a “real problem.”
We, the undersigned law student advocacy organizations, write with regard to the efforts
of the Judicial Conference to address misconduct in the federal judiciary. We write on
behalf of law students who believe that the federal judiciary has responded inadequately to
widespread misconduct and are concerned that the judiciary is not a safe working
environment. As the February 13th testimony before the House Judiciary Committee made
clear, current processes are not sufficient. We urge additional reforms that we believe are
essential to improving the functioning and culture of the judiciary.
Are they right, that the two instances of misconduct reflected by the resignations of Kozinski and Murguia, coupled with Warren’s testimony about her sexual harassment that finds no support from another of Reinhardt’s clerks and, as pointed out by Cathy Catterson, comes only after his death when her words can be believed by those so inclined but cannot be challenged? Is there an epidemic of misconduct by Article III judges, creating a sexually hostile work environment for female law school graduates so compelling that it demands the judiciary police itself to align with the trauma suffered by law clerks?
As you may know, some have suggested that law schools send out surveys to their alumni.
However, because law schools can reach only their own alumni, a school-based approach
would capture fewer responses and would be far less comprehensive than an internal,
judiciary-run survey. Therefore, we ask the Conference to encourage each circuit to engage
in a rigorous survey of its own.
Some may see these demands as a positive contribution to the cause of reinventing the federal judiciary to either align with the feelings of female law clerks or suffer the consequences. Others may see this as an attempt of the least worthwhile contributors to the system, new lawyers offered an opportunity who instead believe they’re entitled to demand it reinvent itself to suit their feelings.
But there’s another way to view this homage to outrage, as federal judges come to recognize that they, too, are subject to the whims of the mob. As innocent male students have sought redress in federal courts for their being the collateral damage in a war of feelings, and as their male profs who shared the sensibilities of the oppressed subsequently learned as they joined their students under the bus, federal judges have struggled with appreciating that this isn’t a benign bias in favor of victims, but an inquisition.
What’s surprising, in light of the fact that the groups calling for Chief Justice Roberts to create an official “shitty judges list” so that women law students know who is awful and disgusting, is that they could just pull a Moira Donegan and do it themselves. And when judges find their names on the list, see the baseless accusations against them for which there is no opportunity to challenge, and find themselves added to Kathy Rubino’s litany of indisputable judicial awfulness, then federal judges may begin to get a clearer sense of what’s happening.
It’s too bad Judge Stephen Reinhardt can’t call bullshit, but he’s dead. Not even death, these days, is reason enough not to escape conviction in the new Warren Court.