Harvard Law School students, faculty, and administrators have condemned sexual harassment in the judicial system following Law School graduate Olivia A. Warren’s Feb. 13 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.
Warren worked as a clerk for federal judge Stephen R. Reinhardt after her graduation from the Law School in 2017 up until his death in 2018. She testified that she experienced repeated instances of sexual harassment during her time in his chambers, alleging that the judge personally insulted her and ridiculed the #MeToo movement.
“On my first day, I was confronted with a drawing of a sine curve taped above the computer in my office to which two dots had been added by the judge so that the curves resembled breasts,” Warren said in her testimony. “The judge himself asked me whether the drawing itself was ‘accurate’ with a look that indicated that the question was whether or not it resembled my own breasts.”
“This was only the beginning of what felt like an endless stream of comments about my physical appearance,” she said.
One day after Warren’s testimony, Law School Professor Adriaan Lanni wrote a letter to the editor of the Harvard Law Record in which she described her own experiences as a clerk for Reinhardt and applauded Warren’s willingness to testify.
“When I clerked for Judge Reinhardt 20 years ago, I remember him as having sexist assumptions about women (e.g., assuming women would not like sports, asking female clerks to make coffee),” Lanni wrote.
Lanni noted that she has praised Reinhardt to students in the past, but finds Warren’s allegations “specific and credible.”
A. Vail Kohnert-Yount, a member of the People’s Parity Project, wrote in an article for the Harvard Law Record that harassment against clerks stains the legal profession as a whole. The People’s Parity Project is a student organization that aims to end harassment and discrimination in the justice system.
“It’s no wonder that clerks, especially those in elite clerkships, are overwhelmingly white and male,” she wrote. “Harassment and discrimination systemically push talented law students and lawyers out of the pipelines to important professional and intellectual opportunities — including but not limited to clerkships — and ultimately this discrimination affects the law itself.”
Warren said in her testimony that she met with Law School administrators to report the harassment but received no follow-up.
“I believed that Harvard Law School should care about the harmful experience of one of its students and I hoped that my experience would lead the school to scrutinize potential clerkships more carefully,” she said. “Nobody has communicated to me since that meeting what, if any, steps Harvard has taken to address the issues I raised.”
Law School Dean John F. Manning ’82 wrote in a Thursday email to students that the school has taken active measures to assist students and alumni facing misconduct in the workplace.
“Harvard Law School is committed to helping confront the problem of judicial misconduct and to ensuring our students understand the options and support available to them,” he wrote. “We can, must, and will always seek ways to do more to help build a profession in which all are treated fairly and with dignity and have equal opportunity to thrive in their work.”