California’s judiciary has spent just under $645,000 to settle sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims filed against judicial officers since 2012, according to public records of the agreements released this week by the Judicial Council.
The identities of many of those judges and the nature of the allegations against them remain a secret, however. Most of the agreements provided by council lawyers are heavily redacted. None of them names the accuser, and only a handful identify the accused. The agreements often include confidentiality clauses.
“The parties agree that they will not, directly or indirectly, initiate any contact with any member of the media regarding the dispute,” a June 2013 agreement between Santa Clara County Superior Court and an unnamed female employee reads.
The woman, whose name and job title are redacted, received $150,000 “to resolve contingent claims” that are not detailed in the agreement. The accused judge is not named anywhere in the document. In an email, Judicial Council lawyers identified the document as one of three settling sexual harassment claims against judicial officers.
Any questions about “the dispute,” the agreement says, should be answered “substantially as follows: ‘This is a private personnel matter. The parties have reached an amicable resolution of their differences.’”
The 64 pages of settlement agreements, provided to The Recorder in response to a public records request, offer few new revelations about sexual harassment allegations in the judicial branch. Lawyers for the judiciary disclosed in March that the branch had paid $296,000 to settle harassment claims against three judges. This week, branch lawyers said the accused judges hailed from Tulare County—the allegations against ousted Superior Court Judge Valeriano Saucedo are already known—Alameda County and Santa Clara County.
Earlier this month, Alameda County Superior Court posted dozens of redacted agreements on its website. Some involved labor issues and a pay dispute with court recorders. The causes leading to other settlements could not be discerned. A court spokesman declined to say whether any involved a judicial officer, saying that posting the documents alone satisfied a recently amended court transparency rule.
Judicial branch lawyers say one of those documents, a $26,200 agreement with a woman who claimed she was constructively discharged in 2016, involved a judicial officer. The court in the agreement denied any wrongdoing.
Judicial Council attorneys have not said whether either of the two unnamed judges remain on the bench or were disciplined.
The newly provided documents do offer fresh information about gender-based discrimination claims against judicial officers:
In 2015, the judiciary paid $150,000 to settle claims against Tehama County Superior Court brought by an unnamed employee who alleged that she suffered gender discrimination and whistleblower retaliation. Under the settlement, the woman agreed to release any claims against court “employees and judicial officers, including the Honorable Judge John Garaventa, and the Judicial Council of California.”
In February of this year, a Lassen County Superior Court settled gender discrimination claims brought by an unnamed male employee. The complainant agreed not to pursue further claims against the court, the Judicial Council, retired Judge Michele Verderosa and former court executive officer Andi Barone. Barone, now the top executive in Sierra County Superior Court, reached her own $100,000 settlement with the Lassen County court in December 2016 after she accused Judge Tony Mallery of misconduct toward employees.
In 2015, an unnamed employee settled a discrimination lawsuit against El Dorado County Superior Court and three of its judges—Suzanne Kingsbury, Steven Bailey and James Wagoner—for $36,250. No further details are provided in the document.
In 2016, San Bernardino County Superior Court settled gender discrimination complaints filed by a female employee for $25,000. The worker resigned and released “all judges” and employees from any claims. The settlement does not reference any judge by name.
In 2012, Alpine County Superior Court paid $2,500 to an unnamed female employee of the court to resolve a gender discrimination claim.
The Recorder left messages Friday afternoon seeking comment with all the courts involved with the settlements. There were no immediate responses.
The documents were released after the Judicial Council in May amended a Rule of Court to require courts to disclose all financial settlements involving judges accused of misconduct. The new rule, however, does not force courts to disclose the accused judge’s identity or details of the allegations if those pieces of information are not included in the settlement agreement.
The settlement documents the Judicial Council posted are below:
Ross Todd contributed reporting from San Francisco.