Federal ruling favors Utah judge in sexual harassment suit
A federal judge has granted summary judgment dismissing a court administrator's allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation against a justice court judge and Weber County.
U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson said in his ruling that even in the most favorable light, no jury would conclude that Weber County Justice Judge Craig Storey's behavior violated Marcia Eisenhour's constitutional rights.
Eisenhour, a court administrator, filed a civil lawsuit against Storey and Weber County in 2010. She alleged the judge sexually harassed her and then retaliated when she rejected his advances. Eisenhour claimed the county did nothing to stop the judge's alleged conduct, which included writing a sexually explicit poem about her, telling her he loved her, rubbing against her and sharing details of a dream he'd had in which she was naked.
Eisenhour had worked for the court for almost 25 years and had a cordial relationship with Storey until 2006, when her father passed away. At that point, Eisenhour's work performance deteriorated, Benson noted in his decision. Eisenhour raised the allegation of sexual harassment, including incidents that occurred as many as four years earlier, after a contentious meeting with the judge in 2008 about her work absences.
She was put on administrative leave twice in 2008 but returned to work in the same office as the judge, which Eisenhour said caused her great stress.
The county investigated but found no basis for the misconduct claim; an investigation by the Utah Judicial Conduct Commission made the same finding.
Benson said Eisenhour found the poem after riffling through papers in the judge's office and it was "undisputed" that he never intended for her to see it. He also said that Eisenhour admitted she was not offended when Storey called her during her father's funeral and said he loved her. Benson said there was "very little, if any, specific evidence" to bolster her other claims.
"The undisputed fact that [Eisenhour] never communicated to Judge Storey or anyone else in the county, or, for that matter, anyone in any capacity, about any offense she may have taken from Judge Storey's behavior, renders her case, already deficient on facts, even less meritorious," Benson said in his decision.
As for the county, it had a sexual harassment prevention program and process for making reports of improper behavior, which Eisenhour failed to avail herself of in a timely manner. Once she raised claims, the county acted immediately to end any harassing behavior and investigate the allegations, Benson said.
Benson also found no basis for the retaliation claims.