SAN FRANCISCO—A working group convened by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye has developed a proposed rule change that would require settlement agreements involving complaints against judicial officers—including agreements in cases involving claims or complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination—be disclosed to the public.
The proposed rule change will go before the Judicial Council’s Rules and Projects Committee on Thursday. If approved by the committee, the proposal will likely be circulated for public comment from April 26 through May 1 and may come before a vote by the full Judicial Council at its May 24 meeting.
This rule proposal was developed at the request of the Chief Justice. On April 10, she asked the Judicial Council to take immediate action to revise court rules on public records to make sure all levels of the state court system be required to disclose the names of judicial officers who entered into settlement agreements to resolve sexual harassment and discrimination complaints.
“I want to make sure there’s no ambiguity as to whether courts should be required to disclose those records now,” the Chief Justice said. “The current rule does not make it clear enough that these records should be disclosed. Judicial independence relies in part on judicial accountability. The judiciary relies on the trust and confidence of the public it serves, and the public has a right to know how the judicial branch spends taxpayer funds.”
She named five council members to work on the rule change: Justice Marsha G. Slough, Judge Stacy Boulware-Eurie, Judge Kyle S. Brodie, and attorneys Gretchen Nelson and Rachel W. Hill.
“These provisions will ensure that the public has full and meaningful access to records of settlements,” wrote the working group. “There is nationwide interest in, and concern about, issues of sexual harassment and discrimination. This type of serious misconduct has been revealed in the movie industry, the media, technology firms, and government. Government entities have recognized that some immediate action is urgently needed to address these concerns.”