'High Level Action' Required to Amend Justice Department Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

In a year defined by high-profile male plummets from grace due to newly exposed sexual impropriety, every established power structure is in the midst of stringent evaluation. On Tuesday, investigative accounts acquired by the Washington Post revealed that the department’s inspector general had determined that sexual harassment allegations within the Department of Justice often resulted in zero disciplinary action or conciliatory half-measures.

According to Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, attorneys employed by the Department of Justice who are accused of sexual misconduct often are not appropriately disciplined and have, in some cases, received performance condemnations or bonus compensation after the fact.

One particularly disturbing incident investigated by the IG involves supervisory attorney in the Office of Immigration Litigation Victor Lawrence, who allegedly groped and verbally harassed two female colleagues at an office happy hour but received no disciplinary response other than a written reprimand, a shift in duties and an amendment to his title.


Similarly, the IG wrote that Theodore Atkinson of the Office of Immigration Litigation copped to creating a fake online profile to stalk and catfish a female attorney, but he was simply banned from entering her building and shunted to a different division.

Horowitz raised concerns about intra-departmental harassment with a memo sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein in May, and a JD spokesman told the Post that a “working group” has been assembled to grapple with the issues uncovered by Horowitz, but changing the way allegations of sexual misconduct are handled will be as difficult as stopping each and every perpetrator.


“We’re talking about presidential appointees, political appointees, FBI special agents in charge, U.S. attorneys, wardens, a chief deputy U.S. marshal, a U.S. marshal assistant director, a deputy assistant attorney general,” Horowitz told the Post in an interview. “Without strong action from the Department to ensure that DOJ employees meet the highest standards of conduct and accountability, the systemic issues we identified in our work may continue,” he wrote.