Chief Justice: ‘I’ve Had A Few Me-Toos’

By Bob Egelko
San Francisco Chronicle

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) During her annual meeting with reporters, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye shared that she too has experienced sexual misconduct in the workplace although she wasn’t willing to name names.

San Francisco Chronicle

California’s chief justice said Monday she’s had her own encounters with sexual misconduct in the legal profession, and described the recent flood of harassment revelations as evidence of women’s persistent inequality in the workplace.

“I’ve had a few ‘me-toos’ in the past, but I’m not telling them, at least not on the record,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in her annual meeting with reporters. She did mention “being called ‘sugar’ and ‘honey’ and ‘dear’ and ‘girl’ when I was a trial lawyer” in the Sacramento County district attorney’s office in the 1980s.

Some people in a variety of occupations need a lesson in “the things we learned in kindergarten — keep your hands to yourself,” Cantil-Sakauye said.
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She said the legal profession has “definitely improved over time,” but that new allegations against prominent men, in entertainment, politics and even the judiciary, were “a symptom of the overall treatment of women professionally and in the workforce.”

Last week the Washington Post reported that Alex Kozinski, a longtime judge and onetime chief judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, had been accused of misconduct by six women on his staff, including two former law clerks who said he had asked them to look at pornography in his office. Kozinski said he didn’t recall the incidents but apologized for any embarrassment he had caused.

Also last week, the San Jose Mercury News reported that Conrad Rushing, who had announced his retirement Oct. 31 as chief justice of the state’s Sixth District Court of Appeal in San Jose, had resigned after a report commissioned by the state Judicial Council accused him of sexual misconduct and discrimination.

The newspaper said the report, conducted by a private law firm, found that Rushing had made comments about female employees’ bodies and clothing and had assigned female staff attorneys to menial chores such as packing up his belongings from his apartment, while treating male lawyers much more professionally.

Cantil-Sakauye did not discuss the details of the report but confirmed that the Judicial Council, which she chairs, had requested it after receiving complaints forwarded by the court Rushing, now 80, had led for 15 years.

Rushing’s resignation “came as a surprise to me,” the chief justice said. She said the complaints “are still allegations” and were not made public because the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance had not taken disciplinary action against Rushing before he resigned.

On a related subject, she noted that the Judicial Council has recommended updating California’s ethical rules for lawyers to prohibit sexual relationships with clients, unless they had such a relationship before becoming attorney and client.

Cantil-Sakauye also said the state Supreme Court has suffered a loss of productivity because Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to nominate a successor to Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, who retired at the end of August. Werdegar, the court’s longest-serving member, announced her departure in March, giving Brown a chance to appoint his fourth justice to the seven-member tribunal, but he has not acted or indicated when he would do so.

“It’s difficult to operate without a seventh justice,” the chief justice said. She said the court has had to divide Werdegar’s former workload among its remaining justices, has found itself deadlocked on some cases, and has had to call on a succession of appellate court justices, chosen at random, to occupy the seventh seat at hearings for the past four months.

“I think it is record-setting,” she said of the vacancy, “but it is this governor,” and she has “no sense” of Brown’s plans.

The governor was in Paris for a climate conference on Monday. His office, in a statement, noted that there was no legal deadline to fill the vacancy, and added, “We are carefully considering the appointment, and our aim is to appoint the best candidate from a broad and diverse pool of applicants.”

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