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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Les Moonves, Legal Industry Sexual Harassment: Broadsheet July 31

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! RBG talks retirement, Les Moonves is still standing, and we look at the fallout—or lack thereof—for alleged sexual harassment in the legal industry. Make your Tuesday count.

 

EVERYONE’S TALKING

• Legal recourse. There is mounting evidence that alleged sexual harassers in the legal industry can operate with near total impunity.

There’s the story of Judge Alex Kozinski, who in December retired from the federal appeals bench after being accused of sexual misconduct. A former clerk, for instance, accused him of showing her porn while at work. His stepping down effectively quashed an investigation into his behavior, giving his accusers and defenders no closure and leaving the judge with a repercussion of his own choosing.

Fast forward a half-year, and he’s back in the public eye, with an interview on public radio in California and a published article in a legal trade publication. Neither made reference to the circumstances of his retirement.

Readers “understand that Kozinski is a complicated figure,” explains David Houston, editor of the trade publication; “a man who could be crude, grotesque and hurtful and also a towering intellect who contributed much to the law and to the legal community.”

Then there’s the Monday report in The Wall Street Journal that documents how rainmakers accused of sexual harassment can hop from one elite law firm to another, scoring second and third chances despite troublesome track records. The nature of the legal business deserves some of the blame: hiring a partner with a hefty book of clients is one of the few ways a law firm can increase its revenue, and asking for a prospective hire’s references could tip off his current employer that a partner poach is underway. Plus, partners are overwhelmingly male and they “control the workflow and career development of those beneath them,” according to the WSJ.

Based on those reports, it’s easy to see why sexual harassment is so pervasive in the legal industry (last year, nearly two-thirds of female lawyers said they’d experienced some form of sexual harassment): There’s little professional fallout for those accused of it.

It also helps explains why the recent rebuke of U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes was so noteworthy. Hughes had been presiding over a criminal case when he made this doozy of a remark: “It was a lot simpler when you guys wore dark suits, white shirts and navy ties. We didn’t let girls do it in the old days.”

The judge says he was referring to an “inappropriately dressed” woman in the courtroom, not the female federal prosecutor he had been criticizing. Nevertheless, a higher court scolded the veteran judge for making sexist comments, calling them “demeaning, inappropriate, and beneath the dignity” of his profession.

California attorney Lori Rifkin told The Washington Post that the Hughes reprimand and the accompanying reassignment of the case to a different judge may “empower women and other underrepresented groups in litigation to fight back against this kind of treatment.” It’s worth mentioning, however, that the celebrated rebuke was not necessarily meant for public consumption, but rather—in a style that befits the legal industry—was buried in a footnote.

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

• Taking things outside. Embattled CBS CEO Les Moonves will live to see another day at the company following sexual misconduct allegations, the board of directors announced Monday afternoon. The company said its board “is in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation. No other action was taken on this matter at today’s board meeting.” Fortune

• Toxic cleanup. According to an investigation into FEMA, the agency had a “toxic” environment in its HR department, with personnel chief Corey Coleman accused of hiring women as possible sexual partners for male employees. Despite that deeply disturbing claim, FEMA Administrator Brock Long says the problems extend beyond Coleman and that the probe is “not going to stop with him.”  Washington Post

• RBG’s magic number. Speculation about the tenure of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has only intensified since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, and RBG has now addressed the issue head on. “I’m now 85,” she said Sunday, following a production of a play about her late colleague Justice Antonin Scalia. “My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so I think I have about at least five more years.” That timeframe would, of course, see her well beyond President Trump’s current term. Fortune

The September issue. The Huffington Post has the scoop on the upcoming September issue of Vogue, and there’s a lot to unpack. First, editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has given Beyoncé unprecedented control over the cover. Second, the music icon has hired the first black photographer—23-year-old Tyler Mitchell—to shoot a cover in the publication’s 126-year history. And third, it could be Wintour’s last September issue, though parent Condé Nast repeatedly has said the editor is not leaving the magazine. Huffington Post

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Replenishing their ranks. The House GOP is set to lose a quarter of its current 23 female members after this year, meaning Republicans need to refill the party’s pipeline of women candidates. This election cycle, 120 female GOP hopefuls filed to run for House seats, versus 47 in 2016. But even with that uptick, the gender gap between the two parties in the House is expected to widen since far more Democratic women are running in—and winning—primaries this year. Wall Street Journal

• In good health. There’s been a lot of terrible news lately about maternal health in the U.S. Here’s a change of pace: an NPR investigation into how California has cut its rate of women dying in childbirth by more than half since 2006 by focusing on two complications: hemorrhage and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure called preeclampsia. NPR

• Listen up. Speaking of NPR, the broadcaster is out with the latest installment of its Turning the Tables project that seeks to recast popular music in more inclusive ways. It’s compiledThe 200 Greatest Songs By 21st Century Women+” and I couldn’t make it into a playlist fast enough. NPR

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ON MY RADAR

Netflix says it’s open to making a third season of ‘Master of None’ with Aziz Ansari  Fortune

The abortions we don’t talk about: Six ‘Slate’ women tell their stories Slate

Barbara Lee looks to seize her moment  Politico

NBA LIVE by EA Sports finally adds custom female players Fortune

QUOTE

If you are a harasser, then you should be terrified.
Anita Hill, in an appearance on John Oliver's 'Last Week Tonight'