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California courts paid almost $650,000 to settle sexual harassment and gender discrimination claims against judicial officers in the past five years, according to a recent disclosure.
The state Judicial Council released the settlement records, which were redacted to omit names and other details. The records show three cases were based on sexual harassment -- including one settlement for $150,000.
The revelations came after the state judiciary adopted a new rule that requires courts to disclose financial settlements involving claims against judicial officers upon request. In California, #MeToo means state courts, too.
With trial courts in 58 counties, six districts of appellate courts, and a supreme court, the disclosure is a significant step forward in an era tainted by sexual misconduct in high places. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye lead the way by calling for disclosures of financial settlements in May.
The financial disclosures, contained in 64 pages of settlement agreements, ranged from $2,500 to $150,000. The largest payments came from the Tehama County Superior Court and Santa Clara County Superior Court.
In the Santa Clara County case, the court paid $150,000 to a female employee who alleged sexual harassment. Typical of the other settlement agreements, it contains a confidentiality clause.
The Alameda County Superior Court published its settlement records on its website. Many other courts had nothing to report, the ABA Journal said.
The federal judiciary responded to recent sexual harassment claims by revising the handbook for federal clerks. The revision was prompted by allegations against former judge Alex Kozinski last year.
The revision lifted a confidentiality concern, and now says nothing in the handboook "prevents a clerk, or any judiciary employee, from revealing misconduct, including sexual or other forms of harassment, by their judge or any person."
Kozinski, a long-time member of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, abruptly retired after news reports that he showed pornographic images on his computer to a female clerk. A half-dozen former clerks and staffers also revealed other tales of sexual misconduct about the former judge.