WASHINGTON — A former law clerk said she was repeatedly sexually harassed by the prominent federal judge she worked for, the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt, and that the judiciary’s new system for reporting misconduct remains inadequate.
The former clerk, Olivia Warren, said in congressional testimony today that Reinhardt often made disparaging comments about her appearance and expressed surprise that her husband would be attracted to her. She said the judge had a shelf in his office that was reserved for photographs of female law clerks whom Reinhardt found attractive.
She said the judge called her “a stupid little girl” when she expressed her disappointment in Reinhardt’s unwillingness or inability to grasp the harm of sexual harassment.
Reinhardt, a staunch liberal, died in 2018 at age 87 after serving on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for more than 37 years. Warren now works for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, N.C.
Warren testified at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s panel on the courts about protecting employees of the judiciary from harassment and other workplace misconduct.
The hearing follows the reprimand of a federal judge in Kansas, U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia, for sexually harassing female employees and having an extramarital affair with an offender.
Reinhardt’s wife has also died. An email sent to one of his sons early Thursday was not immediately returned. A before-hours voicemail left with the 9th Circuit in California was also not immediately returned.
Last year, the judiciary revised its codes of conduct for judges and judicial employees to more clearly spell out inappropriate workplace behavior, including sexual harassment.
Under the revisions, judges and judiciary employees have a responsibility to report misconduct. Retaliating against anyone for reporting misconduct is unacceptable.