“U.S. Judge Kozinski Accused of Ethics Breach by Lawyer Critic”

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This article is a fairly detailed overview of the Kozinski porn story, written by Cynthia Cotts of Bloomberg News. And I am quoted in it. Cotts contacted me and asked if I would give her my opinion about some of the materials that are alleged to have been on Kozinski’s website. I got permission from various administrators ahead of time, since I would view the material on my law school computer, and then she sent me a number of files. She quotes me for the proposition that the materials are degrading, which indeed they are, especially towards women. What she only references obliquely in the article is the racial animus embedded in some of the video clips and photographs. If indeed he was storing this particular material for his own enjoyment, then Kozinski seems to particularly relish images that eroticize the degradation of Asians and Arabs.

Cotts didn’t contact me for her article because I am particularly important or high profile, and I will certainly admit to being neither. But I was one of a relatively small number of people who criticized Kozinski publicly when the story broke (which was how she found me, see this and this) and one of the few people willing to do so under my own name. Many people are fearful of Kozinski, because he is powerful and has a reputation for aggressively retaliating against anyone who crosses him. One of the first questions Cotts asked when she called me was whether or not I was tenured. I am, and I think it imposes duties as well as privileges on me, which include an obligation to challenge people like Kozinski when circumstances so warrant. Below is a short excerpt from the article, but please read it in its entirety here.

… Kozinski broke into a computer security system in 2001 and disabled porn-detecting software, Mecham wrote in 2007 to Judge Ralph K. Winter Jr., chairman of a federal judicial conduct panel.

Kozinski defended himself in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article, saying he aimed to protect judges’ privacy. Mecham denies targeting individuals.

Mecham said he discussed the matter with former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The chief justice concluded Kozinski probably committed a felony by tampering with government property, Mecham said in his letter to Winter.

The conduct committee didn’t investigate Mecham’s complaint because it wasn’t referred by the Ninth Circuit, Winter said in an interview. Rehnquist died in 2005. Kozinski wasn’t charged with a crime. …

For other coverage of the story by Bloomberg, start here. Chief Justice Roberts may have been sending a signal when he situated the Kozinski misconduct investigation in the Third Circuit, where the ACLU likes to litigate First Amendment cases, rather than in a circuit where the judges are generally more conservative. We shall see.

–Ann Bartow

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0 Responses to “U.S. Judge Kozinski Accused of Ethics Breach by Lawyer Critic”

  1. beckychr says:

    As I heard it Rehnquist sent an emissary with instructions”Tell Alex to watch pornography at home and not download it and watch it in the courts”

    I am not going to defend the judge–the stuff is offensive and degrading. But it is a case of one of those famous balancing tests beloved in constituional law. He is a show boat and has the usual Dumb Young White Guy offensive streak—and he is a showboat to boot–on the other hand, he is one of the finest legal minds on the federal bench.

    I once heard him say that he knew he had made a good decision when he ruled in a way that was contrary to his political beliefs–and I assume that would include his adolescent testosterone streak. I think it was this challenge which caused him to decide to appoint himself to the LA smut case where this all broke out. He probably would have been forced to conclude that there this is still some stuff, besides child porn, that is so disgusting and degrading it is not constitutionally protected–and that would be despite his strong libertarian first amendment attitude. If I had been prosecuting the case I would have wanted to keep him.

    When this broke out I wrote a little piece–that probably does not add a lot to the discussion: http://girlinshortshorts.blogspot.com/2008/06/putting-chill-on-judge-kozinskis-smut.html

  2. beckychr says:

    Sorry to add a postscript–but I somehow posted the above without finishing. Kozinski is the ringmaster who presides over the Ninth Circuit–the most “liberal” circuit–including women’s issues.

    I am not questioning the journalistic integrity of Bloomberg (a very good mainstream news source) or this reporter–but there is an editorial reason they are investigating and highlighting this issue—conservatives like to take digs at the Ninth Circuit–and they want to ensure that its Chief Justice will never be on the Supreme Court–and he has long been on every president’s short list.

  3. bob coley jr says:

    The ingedients of the soup in the cauldren of power seem to enjoy more comprihesive rights than those not given the recipe of power. If one is not trying to hide, no disguise is needed. If, as is put forth by some, the issue is not illegal but damaging, why would a judge do it? Why would a defence of privacy, or for examination of understanding legality or humor, be needed if a reasonable explanation can be had? And given to those that can be trusted to sign a contract of non-disclosure. Bush’s Baked Beans and Coca Cola have more repect for the protections than a JUDGE? There seems to be an issue totaly separate of whether K is a scum, his belief that he is, or should be, allowed rights that others are not (fancy talk and position don’t cut it) does not seem to be the actions of an honorable person. If this kind of thought is suported, we have not evolved much since the days when the soup was primordial. “All lies in jest, stilll a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” (Paul Simon). Some judges too, apparently. Sorry for the rant Ann. I need a vacation! I try not to hang out above my pay-grade and act like a troll, but SOMETIMES…………….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Ann Bartow says:

    A link at your post (this one: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202422200406 )

    Back in 2001, it was then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist who was sounding the alarm, according to the federal court system’s former top administrator.

    In a statement submitted to a judicial discipline reform commission last fall, Leonidas Ralph Mecham — a longtime Kozinski nemesis — described Rehnquist as furious with Kozinski over the issue of court Internet usage.

    “Tell Alex to watch pornography at home and not download it and watch it in the courts,” Mecham quotes the late chief justice as having said.

    Mecham claimed that Rehnquist asked the U.S. Judicial Conference’s Executive Committee to “take firm disciplinary action” against Kozinski and others at the 9th Circuit — but the committee refused. Mecham called it “the worst example of failure by those responsible for disciplining judges that I witnessed during my 21 years as [administrative office] director.”

    Cotts actually interviewed Mecham, the federal court administrator, about a discussion he says he himself had with Rehnquist, and what Cotts reports is entirely compatible with the information contained in the article you linked to.

    I sincerely doubt that any Democratic President has or would ever in a million years consider appointing a Federalist Society stalwart like Kozinski to the Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit is far more famous for being fractured and dysfunctional than it is for being “liberal,” in my opinion. Judges who were appointed by Democrats hold a small majority of the seats, but Kozinski is well known for being a right wing Reagan appointee. Does this look like the campaign contribution record of a liberal to you?

  5. Ann Bartow says:


    I’d have more respect for Kozinski if he simply admitted he liked and used pornography. But this would make him unpalatable at best to the people he owes his judgeship to. So we see him alternately blaming his son, and sending intermediaries to argue that his clips of naked people having sex is “a private collection of visual jokes, some of which have sexual themes” that somehow isn’t porn. I agree with you completely – not honorable.

  6. beckychr says:

    I don’t have the site handy–but I do know that Clinton did seriously consider him for SCOTUS. And actually I would have not put it past Obama–since he is a constitutional scholar—–and he knows he could never get Lawrence Tribe confirmed. I wouldn’t put it past McCain appointing him. There is no way Bush would have–Gitmo and the Patriot Act wouldn’t have had a chance.

    I challenge you to show me a pattern of politically consistent judicial opinions by Kocinzki–and this appointment by Dutch Regan–big freakin deal–so was the Presiding Judge of the California Supreme Court who wrote the same sex marriage case.

    On the Ninth Circuit I do not consider it “liberal”–but just run over to FOX or tune into Limbaugh for as long as long as a reasonable person can stand and you will see this is the perception on the right.

    The problem with folks like you is kind of the same as with Limbaugh et al–they do not want “judicially conservative” judges they want “politically conservative” judges–they actually want “liberally conservative” judges i.e. “judicial activists–for example if you examine the same sex marriage cases–the courts that have ruled against it have struggled and manufactured a phony “compelling state interest” to justify the disparity of treatment–the ludicrous interest of the state in regulating prorogation. California and Mass have been what might be called “strict constructionists” in applying the equal protection clauses of their respective constitutions.

    “Progressives”, like “conservatives” want “judicially liberal” judges –but they want ones who will promote a liberal political agenda.

  7. Ann Bartow says:

    I have no idea whether you are alleging a liberal or a conservative conspiracy against Kozinski, and I don’t much care. If you think Obama is likely to elevate Kozinski to the Supreme Court, we are not even on the same planet in terms of how we perceive either Kozinski or Obama.

  8. Pingback: Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » Remember When Kozinski Called For The Investigation Into His Porn Site? Looks Like Something Fishy Is Going Down.