There’s a risk that this secrecy can be used to shield or even enable harassment, the signatories of Wednesday’s letter argue. Those who signed the letter ― 695 people in all, including 480 former judicial clerks, 83 current clerks and 120 law professors, according to organizers ― say the Federal Judicial Center’s Law Clerk Handbook needs more specific guidance on these issues, and they are unaware of a central place for employees to turn when faced with harassment.

“In the past, clerks have been told to report any harassment to their judge or that any reports of harassment will be provided to their judge,” the letter states. “This system is flawed for a number of reasons, including that the judge may be the perpetrator of the misconduct or the clerk may be new to the environment.”