Pasadena’s Ninth Circuit Federal Court to Study Workplace Conditions in Wake Of Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Published : Tuesday, January 16, 2018 | 6:25 AM

Pasadena’s Ninth Circuit Federal Court

In light of sexual misconduct allegations that recently led to Pasadena-based Judge Alex Kozinski announcing his retirement, the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has announced the members of a special ad hoc committee he created to review policies, propose revisions where necessary, and identify means of maintaining a healthy workplace environment.

Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas said that the committee would coordinate its work with the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, established by U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

“We do have many effective procedures in place to avoid problems in the workplace,” Thomas said in a press release Friday. “But we need to re-examine them, develop better means of communication, and assure our law clerks and staff of a healthy and productive workplace.”

Thomas formed the special ad hoc committee on December 17, 2017. The next day, Judge Kozinski announced he was retiring after former staffers who used to work with him accused the judge of sexual misconduct.

The release said Ninth Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown will lead the committee, which will also include Chief District Judge Virginia A. Phillips of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Senior District Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, and San Diego attorney Abby Silverman, one of the nation’s top employment and alternative dispute resolution practitioners.

Judge McKeown was chairperson of the U.S. Judicial Conference Code of Conduct Committee and is frequently consulted by federal judges and court staff throughout the nation on judicial ethics. Chief Justice Roberts also appointed her to serve on the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group. In the past, she has served on various committees and panels related to workplace and gender discrimination, including the Ninth Circuit Gender Bias Task Force. She also served as president of the Federal Judges Association.

Judge Breyer formerly served as the district judge representative to the Executive Committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference, while Judge Dale currently serves on the Judicial Conference as the magistrate judge observer.

Chief Judge Phillips leads the largest federal court in the Ninth Circuit, while Silverman serves as a mediator and an arbitrator in employment law disputes.

Chief Judge Thomas also named Ninth Circuit Clerk of Court Molly C. Dwyer, Circuit Executive Elizabeth L. Smith, and Deputy Circuit Executive Marc Theriault as support for the committee in liaison roles.

Friday’s news release said every court unit within the Ninth Circuit, including the Court of Appeals, has established an Equal Employment Opportunity plan and an Employee Dispute Resolution plan with whistleblower protection. The Ninth Circuit also has implemented an Adverse Action Plan for situations specifically involving a demotion or denial of a promotion, and a Grievance Procedure, which involves the application of a policy or procedure related to employment, the release said.

Aside from reviewing policies, proposing revisions and identifying means to maintain a healthy work environment, the committee will also employ focus groups of staff, law clerks, and other interested parties to ensure that all potential workplace issues will be identified and adequately addressed.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s largest and busiest appellate court, hears appeals of cases decided by federal trial courts and certain Executive Branch administrative agencies in nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions.

The Richard H. Chambers Courthouse in Pasadena is one of four courthouse locations of the Ninth Circuit Court.

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