San Francisco Chronicle

DOJ sexual harassment policies set for review

Move follows Chronicle’s report on courts behavior

- By Tal Kopan

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice will examine its sexual harassment policies for potential reform, a move that comes after The Chronicle’s reporting on inappropri­ate behavior in the immigratio­n courts, according to an announceme­nt obtained by the newspaper.

The announceme­nt went out to all department staff Thursday in an email seen by The Chronicle. In it, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco wrote it was “critical to our duty as principled defenders of the law to combat sexual harassment and misconduct in our own workplace and hold offenders accountabl­e for their actions.”

Monaco said she is forming a committee to review all sexual harassment policies of the many subagencie­s of the Justice Department and assess where they may need to be changed, as well as evaluate current training and education. Two senior officials from her

office will chair the effort and include members from across the department, and she said she wanted results of the review in six months.

The Justice Department declined to comment beyond the contents of the memo.

The move came after Monaco’s office was alerted to The Chronicle’s reporting on harassment and misconduct in the immigratio­n courts, a division of the Justice Department, as well as a lack of oversight and procedures to respond to such behavior in the agency.

A second email on Thursday sent to members of the Department of Justice Gender Equality Network (DOJ GEN), a group of more than 1,000 Justice employees who advocate for gender equity in the department and federal government, said that the deputy attorney general’s office told the group that the effort was sparked by a February letter they sent.

In that letter, DOJ GEN highlighte­d The Chronicle’s work as having “crystalliz­ed what we’ve been shouting from the rooftop — the systems in place at DOJ allow egregious sexual harassment to occur and components too often respond with willful neglect,” the leader of the group wrote.

The Chronicle’s investigat­ion uncovered numerous instances of harassment or misconduct within the immigratio­n courts, including by the judges who hear some of the most sensitive cases of genderbase­d violence from around the world.

Examples of such inappropri­ate behavior included a judge who made a joke about genitalia during a court proceeding and was later promoted, and another who has been banned for more than eight years from the government building where he worked after management found he harassed female staff, but is still deciding cases.

Since the investigat­ion was published in January, the Justice Department has not answered several inquiries as to any consequenc­es or changes in procedure in light of the allegation­s the reporting raised.

Reached for comment after The Chronicle reported on the new committee, the incoming president of the National Associatio­n of Immigratio­n Judges, the judges’ union, praised the move, referencin­g a 2017 inspector general report on harassment in the agency.

“I welcome the announceme­nt of a DOJ Steering Committee to address a range of concerns that were raised by the June 2017 DOJ OIG Report on the Handling of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Allegation­s,” said Mimi Tsankov, who also is on the board of DOJ GEN.

“We hope to be a part of any such Steering Committee.”

 ?? Jim Lo Scalzo / Associated Press ?? Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said it was “critical” to “combat sexual harassment.”
Jim Lo Scalzo / Associated Press Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said it was “critical” to “combat sexual harassment.”

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