New Database Empowers Young Lawyers to Review Judges and Expose Workplace Misconduct

Washington, D.C. — A new database is set to launch next month, offering young lawyers the opportunity to review their experiences working for judges and providing law students with insights into the reputations of potential employers. Created by former law clerk Aliza Shatzman, the platform aims to address concerns regarding abusive behavior by judges and improve workplace conditions for judicial employees.

Shatzman, who founded the Legal Accountability Project in 2022, has already received over 800 surveys from current and former clerks since beginning her efforts last April. Her own experience with an abusive judge derailed her career as a prosecutor in D.C., motivating her to create the database as a resource for others. The initiative comes in the wake of high-profile cases involving appellate judges accused of sexual harassment, underscoring the need for transparency and accountability within the judiciary.

While some law schools have their own databases and an informal “whisper network” exists among former clerks, these avenues often exclude applicants without prestigious connections. Law school officials, eager to highlight their students’ successes in obtaining clerkships, can be hesitant to discourage applicants from any particular judge. Shatzman believes that both law schools and the judiciary share the responsibility for addressing these issues and improving the clerkship experience.

The database, accessible to all young lawyers and law students for a fee, aims to collect feedback on judges’ interviewing processes, workplace environments, hours, and assignment styles. It also includes a rating system that allows individuals to assess judges as positive, neutral, or negative. Users of the platform can search for judges by name, court, location, and even demographic information such as gender and race. Shatzman takes precautions to verify the identities of users while ensuring that the reports remain anonymous.

By operating under Section 230, the law that shields operators of online forums from defamation lawsuits, Shatzman’s project minimizes the risk of legal consequences resulting from negative reviews. However, experts caution that careful execution is crucial to avoid potential legal issues.

Judge Douglas Nazarian, a state appellate judge in Maryland and a board member of the Legal Accountability Project, supports the initiative’s goal of democratizing and improving the clerkship experience. Nazarian emphasizes the importance of professional relationships and networks established during clerkships, envisioning the database as a tool to guide clerks toward judges with positive reviews and make the process more inclusive for students from less-privileged backgrounds.

While acknowledging that there may be two sides to every story, Nazarian underscores the need to broaden opportunities rather than focus solely on negative experiences. Critics, however, assert that the database is unlikely to significantly impact the clerkship landscape, as the underlying pressure for law students to pursue clerkships persists.

In addition to creating the database, the Legal Accountability Project advocates for legislation that would subject the federal judiciary to anti-discrimination and whistleblower protection laws. While this proposal faces resistance from judiciary officials concerned about preserving judges’ independence, Shatzman remains committed to effecting positive change within the judiciary, particularly following the #MeToo revelations.

As the legal profession continues to grapple with issues of workplace harassment and discrimination, Shatzman’s database offers a glimpse of hope for increased transparency and improved conditions for judicial employees. The platform’s success will ultimately depend on the engagement of young lawyers and law students, as well as the willingness of the legal community to embrace this new approach to evaluating judges.