Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) wants to guarantee that those who’ve committed sexual assault stay out of positions of power, including in the federal court system.
The senator tweeted on Wednesday that going forward, she’ll be asking federal judge nominees under oath whether they have a history of sexual assault.
Hirono, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee which vets nominations to the Justice Department, began the new practice during a confirmation hearing for 5th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Kurt Engelhardt of New Orleans.
“As you know, women and men all across the country have been speaking out about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment. And it started in Hollywood but we know that it occurs in many other settings,” Hirono said on Wednesday during the hearing.
The senator then asked Engelhardt two questions about whether he’d ever been involved with sexual misconduct. The judge said he hadn’t.
Hirono said that her announcement comes on the heels of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ annual State of the Judiciary report, released last month, in which Roberts noted the judicial branch is “not immune” to issues regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. In the report, Roberts said he would launch a review of how the federal judiciary addresses sexual harassment in 2018.
Roberts’ report came in the aftermath of a major sexual harassment scandal involving a federal judge. At least 15 women alleged in December that Judge Alex Kozinski ― who was a judge on the 9th Circuit, the country’s largest federal appeals court ― subjected them to “a range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments,” including groping and showing them pornography.
Kozinski has since retired from the bench, saying he “cannot be an effective judge and simultaneously fight this battle.”
Hirono is among many women in positions of power to have recently used a public forum as a way to hold those who commit sexual assault or harassment accountable.
Earlier this week, at the Golden Globes awards ceremony, actresses wore black to protest against sexual misconduct in Hollywood. The action was organized by Times Up, a new coalition of actresses, agents, lawyers and others. Eight actresses also brought activists to the ceremony to further emphasize the multi-dimensional fight. The advocates, who had pledged their support to the campaign, announced that they attended the awards show “to shift the focus back to survivors and on systemic, lasting solutions.”