California’s court leaders are staying mostly mum about revelations that the judiciary branch paid more than $600,000 to investigate and settle harassment complaints against judges and court employees over the last eight years.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye addressed the payments briefly Tuesday during an interview with Michael Krasny, host of San Francisco public radio station KQED’s public affairs show “Forum.” She confirmed the settlement figures cited in The Recorder and elsewhere were “accurately reported.”
“Unacceptable,” Krasny said.
“Absolutely,” Cantil-Sakauye responded.
“Egregious,” Krasny continued.
“Shocking,” Cantil-Sakauye replied.
The interview didn’t explore any additional thinking from Cantil-Sakauye, and she didn’t elaborate.
A spokesman for the chief justice later declined The Recorder’s request for an interview, saying she could not comment on the settlement records “because of the possibility of litigation.” He did not elaborate.
In providing the sexual harassment settlement amounts in aggregate, lawyers for the Judicial Council declined to identify the judges, the terms of the settlements or the nature of the allegations.
Judiciary officials cited broad exemptions in the California Rule of Court—Rule 10.500—that governs requests for judicial administrative requests. The Judicial Council adopted the rule in 2009 after the governor signed legislation requiring the branch to craft and abide by its own public records laws.
The courts have largely escaped the “Me Too” scrutiny that forced the Legislature—which, like the courts, operates under its own public records rules—to reveal this year the names of lawmakers and high-ranking legislative aides facing credible accusations of harassment. The criticism compelled legislative leaders to revamp their harassment complaint processes and to propose numerous bills addressing sexual misconduct in the workplace.
The judicial settlement records caused no such public response. Branch leaders have issued no calls for a review of harassment reporting policies.
The documents were made public Friday, a day after legislators left Sacramento for their annual weeklong spring recess.
Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, reached by email Tuesday, said that just because the judiciary or any other state entity claims an exemption from public records laws “does not mean that it should.”
“The Legislature has stepped up and made many of its formerly confidential records public, something that the public appreciates and deserves.,” Stone said. “I believe that all three branches of government, as well as the public, would be better off if more of this information were released.”