Sen. Mazie Hirono Plans To Ask All Judicial Nominees A Crucial Question

"I want nominees who come before me in the Senate to know that these questions are about to become normal."

In light of the #MeToo movement, Congress has taken several important steps to better fight sexual harassment amongst its own, but now Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) is taking the fight beyond Capitol Hill and to the judicial branch of the United States government.

Hirono, who has made name for herself in recent months thanks in part to her impassioned opposition to the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and her staunch support of immigrants and DACA recipients, announced on Twitter on Jan. 10 that she now intends to ask all court nominees about their sexual harassment histories.

"I'm asking nominees to our courts, under oath, whether or not they have a history of sexual assault or harassment," she explained. "Like in other industries, our judges are in positions of power & #TimesUp."

Along with that tweet, Hirono, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, included a video clip of herself questioning the Hon. Kurt D. Engelhardt at a confirmation hearing last week. Engelhardt, the Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, is currently a nominee for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Before launching into her new line of questioning, Hirono noted how "women and men all across the country have been speaking up about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment," and pointed out Chief Justice John Roberts is aware that even the judicial branch is not immune to said troubling behavior. Then, the questions began.

"Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?" Hirono asked Engelhardt. She followed that up with, "Have you ever faced discipline or entered into a settlement related to this kind of conduct?"

Engelhardt, who was under oath at the time and was the first nominee to be asked such questions by Hirono, answered "no" to both queries, according to The Hill

"We all have a responsibility to take action to stop sexual harassment and assault, and create lasting cultural change," Hirono told ELLE.com. "This means keeping this issue on the front burner. Women have endured this behavior since time immemorial, and this line of questioning is a step I can take as a U.S. Senator to hold accountable nominees who will be in positions of power."

Back in October, Hirono was one of a handful of female Senators who shared her own #MeToo story on Meet the Press.

"I want nominees who come before me in the Senate to know that these questions are about to become normal," she concluded to ELLE.

Cover image via Kelly Bell / Shutterstock.com.

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