Amid a flurry of sexual harassment cases in the California Legislature, a record request has revealed the state’s court system has been settling sexual harassment complaints against judges and staffers. [LA Times]
Over the last seven years, the state Judicial Council has paid more than $500,000 to settle sexual harassment cases. The state judicial body paid $296,000 to resolve three sexual harassment complaints against judges and $225,000 to settle two lawsuits against court staffers.
Additionally, the Judicial Council disclosed it has spent $79,750 since 2010 on outside investigations into sexual harassment allegations or other complaints against five judges. The figures do not factor in other potential costs to taxpayers that may have been part of settling sexual harassment complaints against judges and court workers in the state. For instance, county courts can resolve such cases without reporting them to the statewide council.
In its response to the LA times record request, the Judicial Council did not reveal the names of the courts, judges or staffers involved in the sexual harassment cases. The state judicial body’s legal division cited attorney-client privilege and a court rule. But, the agency said it is contacting courts and individuals to determine if they would waive their privilege and allow the legal records to be released.
The Judicial Council’s handling of the matter differs from the state Legislature, which last month, disclosed 18 cases of sexual harassment involving lawmakers and staff. The Legislature identified the lawmakers who were involved in the cases.
While the Judicial Council did not reveal any names, news reports and reporting from the California Commission on Judicial Performance have disclosed a couple of the cases.
The Judicial Council paid to settle a lawsuit brought against Tulare County Superior Court Judge Valeriano Saucedo by his court clerk. Saucedo was removed from the bench in late 2015 for inappropriate behavior with his clerk. The clerk’s lawsuit alleged Saucedo made inappropriate and unwanted sexual overtures toward her.
According to the Commission on Judicial Performance, which is the state watchdog for judges, Saucedo pressed his clerk to be his “special friend” and gave her $26,000 in gifts and cash, then lied about his behavior to investigators.
In a federal court case, the state paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit against Lassen County Superior Court Judge Tony R. Mallery, according to a Courthouse News Service report. A Lassen County court executive alleged Mallery screamed and yelled at female employees and hugged a defendant in open court.
Late last year when he chose to retire, Presiding Justice Conrad Rushing of the San Jose-based Court of Appeal faced allegations of bigotry, sexual harassment and discrimination against women. Court officials confirmed Rushing faced the allegations, though it is unclear what became of the case.
Cathal Conneely, a spokeswoman for the California Supreme Court, said the state judicial system has had a “limited number” of reported incidents, but they are “still too many.”