July 27 (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday urged the U.S. judiciary and a former North Carolina public defender to avoid a September trial by settling a closely-watched lawsuit accusing court officials of being indifferent to her complaints of sexual harassment.
U.S. District Judge William Young during a hearing held by Zoom encouraged Caryn Strickland and lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice to explore a settlement and recommended a potential mediator who could help facilitate any talks.
But the Boston-based judge warned the parties that absent a deal, he was ready to preside over the non-jury trial starting Sept. 5 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was eager to hear testimony and evidence in it.
“I of course institutionally hope that you settle,” Young said. “But if you don’t, I’m sure I will enjoy the trial.”
The 2020 lawsuit is headed to trial after a federal appeals court last year revived Strickland’s claims that she was sexually harassed by a superior and stonewalled in her efforts to have the judiciary address her complaint.
Strickland worked for the Federal Public Defender’s Office in the Western District of North Carolina. Federal public defenders’ offices are part of the judiciary.
She testified before Congress last year alongside other women who experienced or witnessed harassment and discrimination while working in the federal judiciary, whose workforce lacks protections under Title VII against workplace sexual harassment.
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