Holy Crap! The Sexual Harassment Allegations Against The Late Judge Stephen Reinhardt Are Shocking

Stephen Reinhardt

Stephen Reinhardt

Olivia Warren clerked for the late Stephen Reinhardt, known as the liberal lion of the Ninth Circuit, from 2017 until his death in 2018. Today, Warren testified at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on sexual misconduct in the federal judiciary about the judge’s shocking behavior while she was a clerk.

As she noted in her written testimony, Warren said she was not looking “to destroy Judge Reinhardt’s legacy, to erase his significant contributions to the law, or to condemn him.” However, her oral testimony noted, “I saw the bad in him,” saying Reinhardt was “a judge who demeaned his employees, a man who demeaned women, and a man who sexually harassed me.” That’s a hard thing to reconcile with anyone’s idea of a progressive champion.

The allegations in Warren’s testimony are downright shocking. Here are some of the worst ones:

  • The alleged harassment began on the very first day Warren began work as a clerk for Reinhardt. In her testimony, she indicated on that day she came across a sine chart with “two round dots to the top of the curves such that the chart resembled a woman’s breasts.” Reinhardt added the dots.
    Her testimony continues, “In addition to emphasizing how proud he was of the nipples he had drawn on the chart and confirming that he and the clerk had made it, he asked me a question about whether or not it was ‘accurate.’ Based on his tone and demeanor, I understood his question to be asking whether or not the drawing looked like my breasts.”
  • Warren also testified that Reinhardt would she her photos of female law clerk applicants and say “which candidate was more attractive and which candidate had nicer or longer legs.”
  • She testified that the judge “routinely and frequently made disparaging statements about my physical appearance, my views about feminism and women’s rights, and my relationship with my husband (including our sexual relationship).”
    “Often, these remarks included expressing surprise that I even had a husband because I was not a woman who any man would be attracted to. In that vein, Judge Reinhardt often speculated that my husband must be a ‘wimp,’ or possibly gay,” Warren testified. “Judge Reinhardt would use both words and gestures to suggest that my ‘wimp’ husband must either lack a penis, or not be able to get an erection in my presence.”
  • “He frequently discussed and always cast doubt upon credible allegations of sexual harassment. The doubts he expressed were sometimes based on his assessment of the attractiveness of the accuser, and sometimes based on his general incredulity that men could be harassing women.” Warren continued, “For example, Judge Reinhardt told me that the allegations of sexual harassment that came out against people like Louis CK and Harvey Weinstein were made by women who had initially ‘wanted it,’ and then changed their minds.”
  • Warren attempted to engage Reinhardt on the subject of sexual harassment by describing sexual harassment she’s experienced, Reinhardt “became enraged.”
    “He yelled at me to stop speaking, and said that none of what I had just said was true. He explained to me that I had never been sexually harassed because no one had ever been sexually attracted to me.”
    “He said that to the extent that I believed I was sexually harassed, it was because men wanted to silence me and used harassment to do so—which, he added, was within their rights to free speech.”
  • When the sexual misconduct allegation against disgraced former Ninth Circuit judge Alex Kozinski — reportedly a close friend of Reinhardt — became public, Warren says Reinhardt told her “that women were not to be trusted and that he did not ever want to be alone in a room with a female law clerk again; he suggested that he would not hire any more female clerks or other female employees for these reasons.”
    “Judge Reinhardt also repeatedly told me that he intended to publicly confront one of the women who accused Judge Kozinski at an event at UC-Irvine, with the intention of humiliating or silencing her. I later learned that when he met the woman at the event, he pointedly and publicly insulted her intellect.”

Warren also testified that she feared reporting the harassment because of Reinhardt’s power and position and that she feared he would retaliate if she came forward.

Jerrold Nadler, House Judiciary Committee chair, released the following  statement after the hearing:

“Culture change starts with the recognition that the judiciary is more than just its judges, and that protecting powerful judges from accountability and embarrassment is not the same as protecting the integrity of the judiciary, especially if it leaves law clerks and other employees more vulnerable to misconduct,” he said.

You can watch Warren’s testimony below, which begins at the 34:22 mark.

headshotKathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

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