Judge Morrison’s resignation fits a troubling pattern in which judges accused of misconduct escape accountability by simply walking away from the bench. That was the case in 2016 when Richard W. Roberts, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for D.C., cited unspecified health issues and took inactive senior status after allegations surfaced that he repeatedly raped a teenage girl who was a witness in a case he prosecuted in 1981. It was the case in 2017 when Alex Kozinski, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, abruptly retired after he was accused of sexual harassment and abusive practices by more than a dozen women, including former law clerks.
“Totally inappropriate” and “wrongheaded.” That is what Judge Morrison told The Post’s Amy Brittain when she confronted him with allegations that he sexually assaulted Carole Griffin, the daughter of family friends, in 1976 when she was 16 years old. Other words come to mind, and it is mind-boggling that someone once charged with administering justice would offer the excuse that “I certainly did not think that I ever forced myself on her.”
The decision by Ms. Griffin to come forward with her allegations after more than 40 years — and how they were corroborated — is chronicled by Ms. Brittain in a remarkable seven-part podcast, “Canary: The Washington Post Investigates.” Ms. Griffin, a bakery and cafe owner in Birmingham, Ala., reached out to The Post after reading about Lauren Clark, a D.C. hair stylist who was sexually assaulted by a stranger who ended up being sentenced to just 10 days in jail by Judge Morrison. We now know, thanks to Ms. Brittain’s reporting, of other sexual assault cases in which Judge Morrison acted leniently: a 30-year-old teacher who engaged in sex acts with five teenage students and got probation and a suspended sentence; a social worker at a school for behaviorally troubled youths placed on probation for taking indecent liberties with minors after engaging in sex acts with two teenage boys.
The telling of the intertwined stories of these two brave women comes at a time of renewed national reckoning over sexual abuse. The report makes clear how difficult it is for victims to come forward — and also why it is so important that they do so. “Somehow, you know, the — the — the onus, the pressure, the — the decision. I’m the arbiter somehow,” said Ms. Griffin. “You know, I’ve been asked to carry this secret. And I have to decide every day whether I think it’s possible that he’s done it to somebody else or not. You know? And I shouldn’t have to decide that. The consequences are too great on either side. If I, if I don’t keep the secret, it will ruin his life. If I do keep the secret, there’s a chance that there are people out there who were also molested by him. And it’s all up to me, you know? I’m in the crucible.”