Main content

Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group Formed

James C. Duff, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, has established a Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group to review the safeguards currently in place within the Judiciary to protect employees from inappropriate conduct in the workplace.       

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., noted in his 2017 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary that he asked Director Duff to form the working group, observing, “The Judiciary will begin 2018 by undertaking a careful evaluation of whether its standards of conduct and its procedures for investigating and correcting inappropriate behavior are adequate to ensure exemplary workplace conduct for every judge and every court employee.”   

Chief Justice Roberts directed the working group to examine whether changes may be needed to the Judiciary’s codes of conduct; its guidance to employees – including law clerks – on issues of confidentiality and reporting instances of misconduct; its educational programs; and its rules for investigating and processing misconduct complaints.

Working Group Members are:

James C. Duff, Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Chairman. As Director and Secretary to the Judicial Conference, Mr. Duff has been involved in several high profile judicial misconduct matters and oversees staff support to Judicial Conference Committees, including the Codes of Conduct Committee and the Judicial Conduct and Disability Committee. Mr. Duff served as counselor to the Chief Justice during the Presidential impeachment trial in 1999.

Chief Judge Jeffrey R. Howard, First Circuit. Chief Judge Howard is a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States. As Circuit Chief, he has the statutory authority to review all judicial misconduct and disability complaints and presides over the Circuit Council.  Before becoming a judge, he had been chair of the New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, which developed interdisciplinary response protocols that became the model for programs in a number of other states. 

Judge M. Margaret McKeown, Ninth Circuit. Judge McKeown chaired the Judicial Conference Codes of Conduct Committee, is chair of the newly formed Ninth Circuit Workplace Environment Committee, and served on various committees, working groups, and panels related to workplace and gender discrimination while on the bench and in private practice.

Chief Judge Julie A. Robinson, District of Kansas. Judge Robinson served on the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council and was a member of the committee that developed the 2010 and 2015 Strategic Plan for the Federal Judiciary, which dealt with workplace issues, ethics, and integrity, as well as other topics.

Judge Sarah S. Vance, Eastern District of Louisiana. Judge Vance is a former Chief Judge of the district and a former member of the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council. She also was a member of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Board of the Federal Judicial Center.

Margaret A. Wiegand, Circuit Executive for the Third Circuit. Ms. Wiegand supports the Chief Circuit Judge in administering the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act and manages and supports the workplace complaint process under the Consolidated Equal Employment Opportunity and Employee Dispute Resolution Plan. She also chairs the federal Judiciary’s Human Resources Advisory Council.

Jeffrey P. Minear, Counselor to the Chief Justice for the past 11 years. Previously Mr. Minear clerked for a federal appellate judge and before joining the Supreme Court, held a variety of policy, legislative, and appellate positions at the Department of Justice.

John S. Cooke, Deputy Director of the Federal Judicial Center for the last 12 years. Before joining the center in 1998 as Director of Judicial Education, Mr. Cooke was the Chief Judge of the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. In 2013-2014 he served on a committee established by the Secretary of Defense to study responses to sexual assault in the armed forces.

Sheryl Walter, General Counsel at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, will serve as counsel to the working group. She previously held senior positions at the Department of Justice and Department of State and on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She also clerked for a federal appellate judge.

In the course of its review, the working group will examine workplace relations practices in the public and private sectors and consult with other authorities as appropriate.  The group will also solicit input from federal judges, law clerks, and other judicial employees.  In addition, the group will coordinate its efforts with those of other federal courts that are reviewing similar matters.  It will submit a written report and recommendations to the relevant committees of the Judicial Conference of the United States.