In the wake of a high-profile scandal in which prosecutors in a major corruption case exchanged private text messages with a judge about its planned strategy, Israel’s Supreme Court has announced new rules to prevent further one-sided communications.
Under the new rules all contact between the judge and the investigative and prosecuting bodies will only be made during court hearings. Aside from in the courtroom, no direct requests are to be made of judges, but rather are to be filled through the court administration.
This makes a great deal of sense, and gives the court system a chance to rebuild whatever public legitimacy it has lost from the scandal.
I have praised Jeffrey Rosen’s new biography of William Howard Taft on this blog before. It is a lucidly framed and highly readable look into the life of the only man ever to serve as both President and Chief Justice.
My longer review of Rosen’s book has now been published on JOTWELL. Enjoy!
Last week, Senator Charles Grassley promised to hold a hearing on the federal courts’ response to workplace harassment, which culminated in a working group report. The Washington Post reports on that hearing here.
From the story:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said in her opening statement that she was troubled by some aspects of the report.
“I’m also concerned that the working group’s report didn’t quantify the prevalence of sexual harassment in the judiciary and instead relied on previous EEOC data,” said Feinstein, using an acronym for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Grassley said in an interview that the report seemed like a way to “create the appearance of caring” while leaving “employees of the judicial branch without a vehicle for reporting abuses.”
The Iowa Republican said he would like to see an independent watchdog for the judiciary that could take and investigate reports of harassment. While Congress could theoretically get involved with legislation, he said, that might be difficult to accomplish in practice.
The Israeli Supreme Court has hired a media consultant for the first time. The consultant’s role will include helping Chief Justice Esther Hayut coordinate the work of various spokespeople throughout the court system.
Some in Israel are painting this as a gimmick to improve the legitimacy of the court system through public relations. But media adviser is a pretty common role in the United States, where many state and local courts have public information officers. It strikes me as an entirely reasonable move in a country with a sophisticated media and fast-moving news cycle.
This week, the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group released its report and recommendations, which covered a range of workplace conduct including sexual harassment.
Senator Chuck Grassley is not impressed with the final report, stating that “The report lacked very serious proposals and, in a sense, just kind of kicked the can down the road.” He wants Congressional hearings on the matter.
The Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, formed in the aftermath of the Alex Kozinski scandal, has issued its report and recommendations.
From the press release:
The recommendations include clarifying workplace standards and communications about how employees can raise formal complaints, removing barriers to reporting complaints, providing additional and less formal avenues for employees to seek expert advice and assistance on workplace conduct issues, and utilizing enhanced training on these subjects for judges and employees.
Several recommendations of the Working Group have already been implemented or are underway, such as clarifying that confidentiality rules in the Judiciary do not prevent law clerks or employees from reporting misconduct by judges. Many of the report’s recommendations require further action by the Judicial Conference.
The entire report can be found here.