Fmr law clerk accuses NY Supreme Court judge of sexual harassment, judicial system of covering it up

DCNFVandana Rambaran, DCNF

A former law clerk is suing the New York state Supreme Court justice in Manhattan that she worked under for sexual harassment, alleging that several members of the court were responsible for covering up his unwanted advances towards her.

Alexis Marquez claims she was fired from her clerkship under  Supreme Court Justice Douglas Hoffman after she rebuffed his advances to treat her “as a wife, girlfriend, personal companion, and personal assistant,” according to the 118-page complaint filed in a Manhattan federal court.

The complaint names 17 court officials in total, including Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks, all of whom Marquez claims suppressed her complaints and perpetuated the “widespread culture of silence and retaliation” in the courts starting just one month after she began working for Hoffman in September 2017.

During her first three weeks as a clerk for Hoffman, Marquez claims the judge repeatedly asked her a barrage of personal questions and shared personal videos and text messages with her. He suggested that they have lunch together every day, and instructed her to sit close to him and take off her suit jacket, walk him to his car, and ask Marquez to picture herself married to him, according to the complaint.

As the alleged harassment continued, Marquez asked Hoffman in October 2017 to stop contacting her on her personal email. Hoffman became angered and threatened to fire her if she didn’t keep quiet about her allegations, according to the court complaint, which was filed by Marquez’s husband and attorney, Anthony Vissilev.

When Marquez complained to other judges, they allegedly insisted that she ignore Hoffman’s advances and keep silent while continuing to do her job. They eventually ceased contact with her altogether, according to the suit.

When Marquez filed her allegations of harassment, discrimination and retaliation to the director of human resources, Lauren DeSole, in an 11-page complaint in November, Marquez was transferred and demoted, according to the filings.

Weeks later, in early December, Marquez said the courts made unannounced revisions to their sexual harassment policy, deleting “approximately half” of the policy in an effort to protect Hoffman’s behavior and unwanted advances and belittle the former clerk’s case against him.

“It remains the Court System’s policy not to comment on pending lawsuits no matter how frivolous, poorly crafted or nonsensical,” Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen told the New York Post.

“Also, our updating of the court systems sexual harassment policy had nothing to do with these allegations,” Chalfen said.

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