Clerks Resign As 9th Circuit Launches Harassment Probe Of Kozinski

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Several law clerks to Judge Alex Kozinski resigned Thursday, after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals launched an inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct lodged against the judge.

Chief Judge Sidney Thomas announced in a late Thursday order the 9th Circuit’s judicial council brought a complaint against Kozinski, who has served on the court since 1985. To ensure impartiality, a separate federal court will conduct the investigation and make recommendations as to possible disciplinary measures.

“[I]n the interest of the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts, a complaint is hereby identified against Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski,” the order reads. “This complaint is based on allegations contained in a December 8, 2017, Washington Post article entitled ‘Prominent 9th Circuit Judge Accused of Sexual Misconduct’ and any other related articles.”

The 1980 Judicial Conduct and Disability Act (JCDA) establishes investigative protocols for federal judges accused of “conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts.” Discipline under the JCDA can include censure or impeachment referrals. Records generated in the course of such inquiries are made public once final action is administered.

Shortly before Thomas issued the order, Above the Law reported that three of Kozinski’s law clerks resigned. The court’s public information office confirmed the resignations, but did not offer further details. Kozinski is a renown “feeder judge,” as his proteges often go on to clerkships at the Supreme Court, making spots on his staff among the most coveted in the federal judiciary.

Six former female court employees accused the judge of sexual harassment in the pages of WaPo Friday. The women allege Kozinski made lewd or untoward remarks in their presence and showed them pornographic materials in his chambers. Other allegations appeared in Slate and a personal blog over the weekend. Four of the eight total accusers made allegations on the record.

Kozinski expressed regret his conduct has given offense in the past, and insisted that he treats his staff with respect as a general matter.

“I have been a judge for 35 years and during that time have had over 500 employees in my chambers,” he told WaPo. “I treat all of my employees as family and work very closely with most of them. I would never intentionally do anything to offend anyone and it is regrettable that a handful have been offended by something I may have said or done.”

The judge escaped serious reproach after the Los Angeles Times revealed in 2008 that he used court computers to access, maintain, and curate a collection of pornography. The matter was referred to the 3rd Circuit for investigation, which lightly admonished him for poor judgement, but ultimately concluded his deletion of the collection effectively closed the matter.

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