Speed Up the Sexual Harassment Investigations

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The #MeToo crusade has shined a light in the dark corner of American life including California’s state capitol. Accusers’ stories of sexual harassment are believed more readily than in the past and now the accused are immediately ostracized, most stepping back from their jobs while often declaring their innocence. Justice for the victims and proper due process for the accused requires swift action. Yet, the investigations grind slowly. They must be resolved more quickly.

While the legislature sets up procedures to deal with sexual harassment complaints and at the same time tries to create a system that is transparent and independent given that the accused are often colleagues, it leaves both victims of harassment and those who may be wrongly accused frustrated with the lack of resolution.

The accused that declare their innocence (and some perhaps are) are roasted slowly over a fire of public scorn and the victims, who have shown real courage in speaking out, wait in fear of repercussions and uncertainty.

In both instances, as British Prime Minister William Gladstone put it, “justice delayed is justice denied.”

This concept is embodied in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which says that in cases of criminal prosecutions the accused “shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial.” The idea is to give the accused a chance to defend himself or herself without the prosecution delaying trial and keeping the accused in jail an unreasonable time.

Bringing that concept back to the sexual harassment charges that have hit legislators and others, rather than excessive jail time, the accused leave positions to which they were elected or achieved while under suspicion and, in the case of legislators, constituents are no longer properly represented.

Take the high profile case of Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia. A leader of the Sacramento #MeToo movement who declared she had been harassed as a newly elected state official, she is now the accused. She declares her innocence but removes herself from office. In the meantime, as Scott Lay described in the Nooner,  “One cannot ignore the players” in the dispute. Figures from rival political camps are involved. Whose to know if this is a case of harassment or political skullduggery unless an investigation immediately gets into high gear and finds the truth.

While due diligence must be part of the investigation process, it is incumbent on the legislature to see the investigations move to a proper and rapid conclusion.

With prompt investigations, guilty parties would be punished swiftly or removed from office while the false shield of proclaimed innocence would be cast aside. On the other hand, a swift investigation that found no proof of the accusation will relieve the accused and allow them to continue to do their job.

It is understandable that many cases may not be clear or are complex, but the legislature should not drag its feet in bringing in experienced investigators and provide the resources to delve into the accusations as quickly as possible.

Get it right and get it done. For the victimized and the innocent, justice delayed is justice denied.

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