Former law clerk testifies she feared reporting sexual harassment to court system

Former law clerk testifies she feared reporting sexual harassment to court system
© iStock

A former law clerk testified in front of Congress Thursday that she was afraid of reporting the alleged sexual harassment she experienced from a federal judge to the court system. 

Olivia Warren, a lawyer who works on death penalty law, claimed in written testimony to the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet that she was harassed by Judge Stephen Reinhardt when she worked with him in 2017 and 2018.

Reinhardt, who passed away in March 2018, was appointed by President Carter and worked in the Ninth Circuit.


The former law clerk said that the 2019 reporting systems set up to protect judicial employees from sexual harassment were inadequate. Warren said they "did not appear to provide a truly confidential option to report," and "it was unclear to me what would happen if I proceeded with reporting."

“I hope that my testimony today will result in law clerks (both current and former) and judiciary employees feeling less silenced and more capable of seeking accountability and redress for any harassment or other misconduct they may have suffered,” she wrote. 

As a law clerk, Warren alleged that Reinhardt harassed her about her physical appearance, saying she was not a woman “any man would be attracted to” and saying her husband “must be a ‘wimp,’ or possibly gay.”

Indeed, after December 8, 2017, there may have been a day in which I was not harassed (whether by reference to my physicality, my intellectual capacity, my feminism, my gender identity, or my sexuality), but I cannot remember one after searching my memory,” she wrote.  

Warren said she feared both “immediate retaliation” and “long-term retaliation” to her “entire professional career” if she came forward. 

She said she attempted to get in contact with the Office of Judicial Integrity, an office designated to help with workplace misconduct, to ask about what would happen if she wanted to confidentially report an incident. But an OIG officer told her that she could not answer the theoretical questions and she should contact a circuit specific official. 


The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said that “no judiciary employee” should experience the harassment Warren described, according to a statement obtained by The Hill. The spokesperson said the office is "deeply concerned about the new information we have learned through Ms. Warren's statement" and that "we take her statement very seriously."

"We are committed to addressing this new information and continuing to refine our processes and procedures for protecting our employees and addressing misconduct," the spokesperson said.

—Updated at 5:32 p.m.