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Chief Justice to review judiciary's sexual harassment policies

Last month, 15 women accused veteran 9th Circuit jurist Alex Kozinski of engaging in a pattern of sexual harassment and misconduct. Kozinski, 67, served for 32 years on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. After a partial apology, he announced his retirement.

Kozinski's retirement comes amidst the firestorm of public sexual misconduct allegations that have resulted in ousters and resignations among media figures, public officials and others. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts noted the trend recently in his annual report on the federal judiciary.

These events have "illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace," wrote Roberts in the report. "Events in the past few weeks," he added, "have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune."

Kozinski was accused of touching female employees inappropriately, making lewd comments and showing them pornography. He has said that some of the allegations were due to a misunderstanding.

As a result of the allegations against Kozinski, a formal inquiry was initiated within the 9th Circuit. It was then reassigned to the 2nd Circuit, but it is unclear what will happen now that Kozinski has announced his retirement.

Roberts announces 'careful evaluation' of policies to begin the new year

The Chief Justice promised in the annual report that the judiciary will begin the year by evaluating of the courts' standards of conduct and their investigation and enforcement procedures. These standards and procedures must be adequate to "ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee," the report reads.

That includes giving victims of sexual harassment and misconduct "clear and immediate recourse to effective remedies," he added.

Roberts expressed his confidence in the men and women making up the judiciary and said he was sure the "overwhelming number have no tolerance for harassment."

If you work in the federal courts, you may have experienced sexual harassment or misconduct. As you may know, severe or frequent sexual or gender harassment, whether by a male or a female, is illegal and violates federal workplace standards. If you are suffering from harassment or a hostile work environment in the judicial branch, however, you may be concerned that filing a complaint will expose you to the possibility of retaliation.

If you are concerned, you should consider discussing your situation with a federal employment lawyer before taking any action. Your attorney can help you protect your rights and work to limit the possibility of retaliation against you.

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