Six former clerks or externs have accused Alex Kozinski, the former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, of subjecting them to inappropriate sexual conduct or comments, according to a report from The Washington Post.
Kozinksi, who was accused of showing female clerks pornography on his office computer, provided The Recorder with the same statement he issued to the Post: “I have been a judge for 35 years and during that time have had over 500 employees in my chambers. 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.”
Kozinski was previously subject to an investigation by his colleagues in 2008 after the Los Angeles Times reported the existence of a website where the judge kept sexually explicit images. Visitors to the website alex.kozinski.com were—and still are—greeted by the words “Ain’t nothin’ here. Y’all best be movin’ on, compadre.” To access the site’s explicit photos, one had to know additional words to add into the web address.
Kozinski said his son, Yale Kozinski, maintained the website and controlled the domain. Yale Kozinski told the New York Times that only friends and family had access to post files. Yale Kozinski said he “made a mistake” in configuring the site so that it was publicly accessible to someone who figured out the additional access words.
Friday’s revelations come at a time when more women are coming forward about sexual harassment from lawmakers, celebrities and lawyers alike.
Kozinski was scolded by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2001, according to a statement submitted to a judicial discipline reform commission written by Leonidas Ralph Mecham, a former director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts who retired in 2006.
“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 Rehnquist asked the U.S. Judicial Conference’s Executive Committee to “take firm disciplinary action” against Kozinski and others at the Ninth Circuit, but the committee refused. Mecham at the time called it “the worst example of failure by those responsible for disciplining judges that I witnessed during my 21 years as [administrative office] director.”
Heidi Bond, a former Kozinski clerk who now writes romance novels under the name Courtney Milan and one of the named sources in the Post’s story, described uncomfortable encounters with the judge in a post published on her website. One day, she wrote, he showed her pictures of naked people sitting on and standing around a couch on his office computer and asked if she thought the were real.
“I don’t think your co-clerks would be interested in this,” Bond recalled the judge saying. “Do you think this is photoshopped?”
Bond wrote that she was uncomfortable being alone with Kozinski and wished she could become “so small I could disappear.”
“I remember feeling that I needed to not move, either physically or emotionally, that if I just treated this like this was normal it would stay normal and not get worse.”
Bond described a demanding boss who was prone to outbursts, who would call her “honey,” kiss her on the cheek and berate her for reading romance novels on her dinner breaks. She wrote that she thought about quitting—and about the $100,000 in student loans she owed.
“I calculated the fastest route between Pasadena and the city where my fiancé was living. I checked plane ticket prices and read my lease to see if I could afford to break it. I would look at my savings (meager) and calculate how long it would take me to get a job, a paycheck …
“I wondered if I anyone would hire me if I said, ‘Well, yes, I quit my clerkship, and I can’t talk about it for judicial confidentiality reasons, and…no, the judge won’t give me a recommendation, and…yes, you have it right, I got through six months of this but I just couldn’t manage the last six.’”
Bond went on to clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy.
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