The Hawaii Judiciary prohibits unwanted hugging, which the assistant alleges Chief Judge Randal Valenciano did in a “sexualized” manner numerous times.

Fifth Circuit Court Chief Judge Randal Valenciano allegedly sexually harassed his assistant for the past eight years, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in late July and updated last week.

The suit alleges that Valenciano, whose circuit encompasses Kauai, subjected the woman to “a sexualized hug and unwanted and unwelcome touching” in the courthouse at least 10 times and tried to three times, between 2015 and 2023.


The Hawaii Judiciary is investigating the case, according to subsequent court documents. Judiciary spokesperson Jan Kagehiro declined to comment on “employment matters.”

Valenciano did not respond to phone messages asking for comment.

The woman’s lawyer, Eric Seitz, said investigators for the Judiciary have talked to Seitz’s team and gone to Kauai.

“We haven’t really wanted to move forward or make it a big public issue because we don’t know what the Judiciary is going to do with it. We want to give them the courtesy of trying to resolve it themselves,” Seitz said Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed July 31, but the most recent update came Sept. 19 when Judge Wes Reber Porter denied the plaintiff’s motion to seal the complaint.

Seitz declined to make the plaintiff, Leanne Rosa, available for comment, and she could not otherwise be reached.

Rosa had been working for Valenciano for about 18 years when the alleged sexual harassment began, the suit says.

District Court Aha Kanawai Place of Law Judge Jill Otake courtroom4 gavel.
Valenciano allegedly left his assistant a Post-it note that said “I need the hug this time,” according to the lawsuit. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019)

She had started working for him in 1997 when he was working in private practice in Lihue, the suit says. At the time, Valenciano was also a Kauai County Council member, a position he held from 1990 until 2002, according to his Judiciary bio. When he was appointed Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of the Fifth Circuit (Kauai) in 2007, he hired Rosa as his assistant, the suit says.

But in July 2015, Valenciano began conducting himself in a “sexually suggestive” way toward Rosa in the courthouse during working hours, creating a “sexually hostile work environment,” the suit says.

The Judiciary’s policy for discrimination and harassment in the workplace prohibits “unwanted physical contact, sexually suggestive or offensive touching, patting, hugging, brushing against a person’s clothing or body, pinching, or hitting.”

But Rosa alleges that Valenciano hugged her numerous times in a sexual way. On one occasion, she says, the celebration of another judge’s re-confirmation to another term served as a “pretext” for Valenciano to hug Rosa in a sexualized way. On another, she says, a fire department emergency and subsequent traffic jam caused her to be late to work; Valenciano answered with the same hug.

A third time, Rosa says she brought pomegranates to share at work, but Valenciano said he didn’t like the fruit; he then tried to hug her after claiming she was upset about his “expression of displeasure,” the lawsuit says. The next day, he called her into his office, after which he gave her another “sexualized hug” and later left a Post-it note for her that said “I need the hug this time,” the lawsuit says.

After one such hug in July 2020, Valenciano “began sobbing and crying” and told Rosa he was in love with her, the suit says.

Valenciano’s alleged misconduct continued up to Jan. 11, when he gave Rosa “several sexualized hugs and unwanted and unwelcome touching in the workplace,” the suit says.

He allegedly told her, “I miss you when you are not here for me,” and said that when he retired from the bench and returned to private practice, he wanted to keep Rosa as his “work wife,” the suit says.

Rosa had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before this lawsuit, but the EEOC concluded its investigation “without findings” and gave Rosa a “Notice of Right to Sue.”

Seitz said that since she filed her EEOC complaint, it gave her a limited window within which to sue. That deadline was Aug. 1, according to a later court filing by Seitz.

As to why she waited so long to file an EEOC complaint and why she stayed on the job with Valenciano, Seitz said he can’t speak for her.

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