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Ninth Circuit Takes Stock After Post-Kozinski Listening Tour

June 19, 2019, 12:12 AM

The California-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit conducted extensive outreach and carried out changes aimed at improving its workplace environment following harassment allegations that forced out one of its judges, a report by the court showed.

A committee appointed by Circuit Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas and led by Judge M. Margaret McKeown spent 18 months and reached out to 6,000 former and current circuit employees and law clerks following allegations that longtime Judge Alex Kozinski sexually harassed staff.

The revelations jolted the judiciary into the #MeToo maelstrom, and prompted a nationwide examination of judiciary workplace culture by a separate committee appointed by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts.

That panel developed protocols for federal judges to report misconduct when they become aware of it. It also revised procedures for employees to report problems.

The Ninth Circuit committee’s recommendations resulted in changes to the court’s employment dispute resolution policy and the hiring of a workplace relations director. The changes also include a revised and simplified confidentiality policy, communications skills training and other educational steps applicable to for all employees, including judges.

“The Ninth Circuit takes seriously its commitment to a respectful workplace. Over the past 18 months, we have worked hard to put in place revised policies and procedures to make that commitment a reality and we will continue our innovations to foster a culture of respect,” Thomas said in a statement.

The circuit includes California, Arizona, Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, and Washington.

Kozinski, a Reagan appointee who retired after the scandal broke in 2017, later said he would never purposely offend anyone, and an investigation was dropped once he left the bench, in accordance with judiciary rules governing conduct probes.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco at jcutler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com