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Former law clerk alleges harassment by late prominent judge

WASHINGTON — A former law clerk said she was repeatedly sexually harassed by the prominent federal judge she worked for, the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt, and that the judiciary’s new system for reporting misconduct remains inadequate.

The former clerk, Olivia Warren, said in congressional testimony Thursday that Reinhardt often made disparaging comments about her appearance and expressed surprise that her husband would be attracted to her. She said the judge had a shelf in his office that was reserved for photographs of female law clerks whom Reinhardt found attractive.

She said the judge called her “a stupid little girl’’ when she expressed her disappointment in Reinhardt’s unwillingness or inability to grasp the harm of sexual harassment.

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Warren, a Harvard Law School graduate, worked for Reinhardt in 2017 and 2018 until his death at age 87. He was a staunch liberal who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter and served for more than 37 years on the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. It had been among the more liberal appellate benches until President Trump appointed 10 of its 29 judges since 2018.

Warren now works for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, N.C.. A clerkship for a federal judge is a coveted job for new and recent law school graduates.

Warren testified at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s panel on the courts about protecting employees of the judiciary from harassment and other workplace misconduct. Last year, the judiciary revised its codes of conduct for judges and judicial employees to more clearly spell out inappropriate workplace behavior, including sexual harassment.

ASSOCIATED PRESS