In recent years, we’ve seen sexual harassment claims coming from nearly every industry. From high-profile actors to your desk job supervisor, the unfortunate reality is that sexual harassment can happen anywhere and to anyone. All this aside, one area that we were not expecting to see harassment claims come from is from within the court system itself. One would hope that the very system designed to rectify these situations would not also be party to them. However, our hopes appear to be misplaced.
The former law clerk for the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt recently alleged that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge had created a “profane atmosphere” and sexually harassed her on a weekly, and even sometimes daily basis. The former law clerk, Olivia Warren, claimed that the judge would comment on the appearance of women, make remarks about Warren’s sexual relationship with her husband, and say women lied about sexual harassment.
Warren said that when the clerkship began, Reinhardt showed her a graph with two curves that had a dot at the top of each curve. Reinhardt asked her if the graph was accurate, and his demeanor led her to believe he was asking if the diagram accurately reflected the size and shape of her breasts.
According to Warren, he would verbally and physically suggest that Warren’s husband either lacked a penis or was unable to have an erection while looking at her. Reinhardt allegedly claimed that Warren did not understand sexual harassment because she wasn’t attractive, didn’t understand men because she was a feminist, and that her husband was not a real man.
“Mainly, he suggested I was horrifically unattractive. He questioned whether my husband could be real, given how unlikely it seemed to him that any man could ever be attracted to me. He speculated that if my husband in fact existed he was doubtless a ‘wimp’ or gay,” she claimed.
At one point, Warren told Reinhardt she was disappointed that someone with his intellect couldn’t grasp the pervasive and harmful nature of sexual harassment. Reinhardt allegedly screamed that Warren was not as smart as he thought she was, and she was “just a stupid little girl.”
Warren testified that Judge Reinhardt instructed her to analyze which of the two female candidates competing for a clerkship “had nicer or longer legs” and was more attractive. More frequently, Ms. Warren said, he would disparage her physical appearance and speculate — sometimes in front of other employees — that her husband “must either lack a penis, or not be able to get an erection” in her presence because she was so unattractive.
Reinhardt, a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco, died at the age of 87 in March 2018. Warren worked for Reinhardt beginning in May 2017 until his death. The harassment continued until Reinhardt died, but Warren stated that “systemic barriers” discouraged her from reporting the harassment.
If you or a family member has been sexually harassed or assaulted, we’re here to offer our help. Give us a call at 214-210-2100, or visit us online at www.foresterhaynie.com.