Federal judge who was accused of having a ‘too harsh’ management style agrees to counseling


Judiciary

Federal judge who was accused of having a ‘too harsh’ management style agrees to counseling

judge and gavel

According to an order issued this week, a federal judge acknowledged that his management style was “overly harsh”, and agreed to undergo remedial training. This decision came after a law assistant complained about abusive and harassment conduct. (Image from Shutterstock).

According to an order issued this week, a federal judge acknowledged that his management style was “overly harsh”, and agreed to undergo remedial training. This came after a law assistant complained about abusive and harassment conduct.

The name of the Judge was not disclosed in the Order by Dec. 15 Chief Judge Debra Livingston of the judicial Council of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of New York. The order dismissed the clerk’s complaint because the court agreed to take corrective actions and because other actions of the judge did not constitute misconduct.

The 2nd Circuit judicial council denied the clerk’s petition for review. Order by March 25, 2019.

According to ReutersThe case is a “rare instance” in which the federal judiciary addresses publicly misconduct claims under the new policies adopted by 2019. Law360 Also has coverage.

The law clerk initially sought assistance in resolving the dispute under an employment conflict resolution plan. The clerk was transferred to another judge, and then filed a complaint in October 2022 about the first judge’s treatment of staff and added additional allegations.

The investigation revealed other law clerks who “agreed with the judge that his management style was overly harsh,” but they also said they learned from him.

The order stated the judge had “shared on multiple occasions how deeply troubled he was by hearing the concerns raised by the complainant and other staff members and wanted it made clear that he was committed to creating a more positive workplace environment for the chambers staff.”

The order also noted the improvement in the experience of clerks since the complaints had been brought to the attention of the judge.

The judge will attend workplace webinars and videos, and inform the law clerks of complaint procedures. The judge also agreed to allow the circuit director of workplace relationships to check in on law clerks around the midpoint of the term up until August 2025, or longer, if more concerns arise.

The law clerk who complained also complained about the judge:

  • Accepted gifts from staff members. A gift from a departing law clerk was a framed 1970s newspaper clipping featuring the judge’s favourite band. The other was a grape jam jar from a staffer vacationing in New Hampshire. The Dec. 15 order stated that the “de minimis gifts” “fall within” the exception to the gift-accepting ban.

  • Communicated by text with an attorney. The texts were composed of the attorney congratulating a judge on a particular accomplishment, and “a few brief exchanges relating to this accomplishment.” The attorney was involved in a criminal case that was not before the court. The Dec. 15 order stated that the texts did not raise any concerns about ex parte communication. The Dec. 15 order stated that “given the long practice histories of many judges within their district and circuit, these types and communications about personal issues are not uncommon and do not raise any ethical concerns.”

  • Conducted research on the assets of a defendant who failed to appear for a status conference. In coordination with the court’s probation and pretrial department, the judge reviewed public property records in order to determine if the defendant’s bond should be secured. The Dec. 15 order stated that the judge’s actions had not been improper.

The 2nd Circuit is home to the unnamed judge. The news is that the judge has been named. Original Jurisdiction Post about complaints made by clerks who work for U.S. District judge Aileen Cannon of Southern District of Florida. She is overseeing the case of classified documents against former President Donald Trump. The Southern District of Florida lies within the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

Clerks working for Cannon reported positive experiences—until she was assigned the documents case in August 2022. The blog described 80 hour workweeks, exacerbated because of a delay in the security clearance of one of Cannon’s clerks. It also described a micromanagement style, a clerk quitting in October 2023 to spend more time at home with her child, and a second employee quitting in December 2023.

Original Jurisdiction noted a law professor’s assessment of the situation—he said law clerks never quit. Original Jurisdiction was told by a current law clerk of a different judge that this is not true.

The anonymous clerk said, “Clerks quit.” “I bet you if asked law professors about the percentage of clerks who quit a clerkship they’d say it was less than 1%. I would estimate the number at 5% to more based on what I have heard from my peers, forums, and word of mouth.



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