Federal Judiciary Leaders Drop Survey Question About Wrongful Conduct

Federal Judiciary Leaders Drop Survey Question About Wrongful Conduct Federal Judiciary Leaders Drop Survey Question About Wrongful Conduct (CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

By Theodore Bunker | Friday, 14 January 2022 12:43 PM

Federal judiciary officials removed a question about witnessing "wrongful conduct in the workplace" from a training registration form after almost three dozen judiciary staffers answered in the affirmative.

Officials from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts removed the question from the form, which was released last week to the thousands of law clerks and judge assistants that work for federal judges across the country, but only after 34 of 40 employees said that they had "witnessed wrongful conduct in the workplace," according to The Washington Post.

A spokesperson for the office told the Post in an email that "this was an unfortunate administrative error. No more — no less," and said that the question was overly broad and that the number of responses was too low to reveal any significant information or trends.

He added that the office wants judiciary employees to "feel comfortable reporting any instances of wrongful conduct. But a registration form was not the proper place to ask that type of question."

The federal judiciary has come under fire over its policy for handling accusations of misconduct, discrimination, and harassment in recent years. However, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his annual report on the federal judiciary that an internal study "recognized the seriousness of several high-profile incidents, but found that inappropriate workplace conduct is not pervasive within the Judiciary."

Deeva Shah, an attorney representing nearly two dozen current and former federal judiciary staffers, told the Post that "the judiciary cannot adequately assess whether misconduct is pervasive without robust and retrospective reviews, including questions tailored to assess the nature and frequency of such conduct. Although these issues are present in many workplaces, the judiciary is uniquely insulated from basic workplace protections and continues to insist on self-policing, which may explain these numbers and the lack of formal reports filed."