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Former law clerk describes 'profane atmosphere' of sexual harassment by deceased prominent liberal judge

'Mainly, he suggested that I was horrifically unattractive'

Screenshot | House Judiciary Committee/YouTube

A deceased federal judge known as one of the foremost liberal appellate judges in the country was accused of repeated sexual misconduct by one of his former clerks at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday morning.

In her testimony at the hearing, which dealt with preventing federal judiciary workers from sexual harassment, former law clerk Olivia Warren said that now-deceased 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt often subjected her to verbal abuse and sexual harassment.

In her prepared testimony, Warren said that former clerks prepared her to deal with a challenging experience, including one who said to be ready to deal with "your grandfather's sexism." However, "none of this fully prepared me for the profane atmosphere I entered when I began my clerkship," she explained to the subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.

"Judge Reinhardt 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," Warren's testimony reads.

"Mainly, he suggested that I was horrifically unattractive," Warren said in her remarks to the subcommittee. "He questioned whether my husband could possibly be real, given how unlikely it seemed to him that any man could ever be attracted to me. He speculated that if my husband in fact existed, he was doubtless a 'wimp' or gay."

Warren went on to say that "on more than one occasion, the judge suggested with words and gestures that my husband likely did not have a penis, but that if he did, he certainly would not be able to sustain an erection while looking at me, making it clear that he did not believe my marriage had been consummated."

"Judge Reinhardt made these comments to me when we were alone, and also in front of other members of chambers at times," the testimony reads. During the hearing, Warren said that the comments about her appearance "occurred at least weekly through the first few months of my clerkship."

At one point, the judge even brought printed-off pictures of two applicants who were scheduled to come in for job interviews, according to Warren's testimony: "Judge Reinhardt instructed me to look at the photos and asked me to assess which candidate was more attractive and which candidate had nicer or longer legs."

In her testimony, Warren noted that her clerkship with the judge ended when he died of a heart attack in March 2018.

"It is too painful to fully describe my emotions that day," Warren recalled. "I have never cried as hard as I did at the judge's memorial service; the juxtaposition of my anger and my sadness and my shame was impossible to bear."

After the judge's passing, an obituary at the L.A. Times noted that Reinhardt — a Jimmy Carter appointee — was dubbed the "liberal lion" of the federal judiciary. A Politico Magazine story about him from the following December notes the multiple high-profile opinions he wrote that were eventually reversed by the Supreme Court, which included "decisions upholding the right to die, striking down the requirement that students recite the Pledge of Allegiance, declaring unconstitutional a law prohibiting late-term abortions." He was also wrote the majority opinion striking down California's 2012 Proposition 8 against same-sex marriage.

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