Sen. Cruz Questions Witnesses at Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the Federal Judiciary’s Response to Allegations of Sexual Harassment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, participated in a hearing today titled, ‘Confronting Sexual Harassment and Other Workplace Misconduct in the Federal Judiciary.’ There, he questioned a panel of witnesses including Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts James C. Duff, Jaime A. Santos, and Jenny R. Yang. Sen. Cruz’s questions focused on the Federal Judiciary’s response to allegations of sexual harassment as well as getting an accurate measure of how far office misconduct has spread.

Sen. Cruz has long spoken out against sexual harassment as wrong and never to be tolerated. He has been a leading supporter of legislation addressing issues of sexual harassment, and was co-sponsor for recent bipartisan legislation passed in the Senate combating sexual harassment in Congress.

Watch Sen. Cruz’s full line of questioning here. A full transcript is below:

Sen. Cruz: Thank you Mr. Chairman. To each of the witnesses, thank you for being here, and thank you for your testimony. Mr. Duff, you and I go back a long way. We’ve known each other for over twenty years. […] Thank you for being here, and thank you all for your testimony. Let’s start with all three of you, and your written testimony discussed how the present structure of the Judiciary could well be conducive to harassment and to harassment evading detection. At the same time, the Working Group’s report concluded that inappropriate conduct, including sexual and other workplace harassment, is ‘not pervasive in the Judiciary.’ Mr. Duff, do you share that assessment? Is that an accurate assessment of where the Judiciary is right now?

James C. Duff: Yes, our report was unanimous of those of us on the working group. As I’ve mentioned, the term is not to suggest we’re not concerned about it. And as I’ve said, one episode is one too many. I think by comparison, we were referring basically to the EEOC Task Force report, which said it is a pervasive problem in society and Senator Kennedy — we were just speaking of gradations of misconduct. And so, on that scale, by comparison, I would say the Judicial Branch doesn’t rank very high. But as Senator Feinstein said at the very outset – the fact that there’s any in the Judicial Branch is upsetting. And I share that observation. We want to be exemplary as a branch and we should be. And so that term, I hope, doesn’t get misunderstood to mean that we don’t care about this, that this is not pervasive. It’s a relative phrase based on the EEOC Study.

Sen. Cruz: Now, I heard a minute ago in your exchange with Senator Hirono, I think you said you didn’t know of any monetary settlements for harassment. Could you elaborate on, have there been settlements in the Federal Judiciary? And would you know of them? What’s the mechanism whereby you would know of them?

Mr. Duff: I would, well, if it were government funds, we’d know about it–

Sen. Cruz: So, there have been no taxpayer funded settlements of sexual harassment litigation in the Judiciary? Is that–

Mr. Duff: That’s–

Sen. Cruz: Or complaints, litigation may be the wrong — there have been no taxpayer funded settlements of sexual harassment claims?

Mr. Duff: Correct.

Sen. Cruz: And that covers what time period?

Mr. Duff: As far as I know, you know, I haven’t–

Sen. Cruz: Which would be what? I mean–

Mr. Duff: Well, I’ve been in Washington for 42 years, 43 years, I don’t know of anything, Senator Cruz.

Sen. Cruz: Let me ask the other two panelists the same question I started with, which is the working group concluded this was not pervasive. Do you share that assessment, and how would we know? I mean, one of the blessings of our Judiciary is that it is independent. One of the potential challenges of our Judiciary is that it’s independent. And a judge often has little to no supervision day to day and is in charge of all who work around him or her. So, the mechanisms that many workplaces where lots of people are interacting are not necessarily present in the Federal Judiciary. So, how widespread do you think the problem is in the Judiciary? And what more should we be doing about it?

Jaime A. Santos: Senator Cruz, I do not share the working groups’ conclusion that this is not pervasive in the Judiciary. I don’t think the Judiciary has any idea. We recommended that the working group do a survey of law clerks and other employees who worked for the Judiciary for the past 10 years to find out what — any harassment or abusive behavior they experienced or witnessed. And the working group intentionally made the decision to do a very forward-looking approach. I know the EEOC recommends doing workplace climate surveys, which I also think are effective, but I think that the statement that this isn’t pervasive is just a guess.

Jenny R. Yang: I would agree that the Judiciary needs to be more proactive in understanding the full scope of the problem. The systems often place the burden almost entirely on victims to feel comfortable in coming forward. But where the Judiciary is willing to go out and perhaps hire an external review so that individuals can come forward in a way that is more safe and confidential, and I think they will get a more robust understanding of the true scope of the problem.

Sen. Cruz: And Mr. Duff, how would you answer that last question, of what we should be doing about it?

Mr. Duff: Well, I think we’re doing everything we can to certainly make it easier to report. Going forward, Jamie Santos is correct, it wasn’t the focus of the working group, it isn’t what we were organized to do. That is to conduct past investigations, but rather, it was designed from the outset to be forward-looking, ‘how do we make corrections to the system?’ I would say that it’s — it doesn’t — the numbers, how pervasive it is or not, didn’t — we’re trying to eliminate it all, regardless of what those numbers are. So, that was the purpose of the working group. I would add to my earlier answer to your question that all the claims and settlements that we’re aware of in the branch are reported nationally to our FEPs office, and so we would know of any sort of settlements. So, it’s more than a guess on my part that I’m unaware of any settlements, monetary settlements for this.

Sen. Cruz: Thank you.