A year ago, the Los Angeles Times published a highly controversial article about Alex Kozinski, the Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit, accusing him of hosting a porn site that included bestiality. A perusal of the images made clear he was guilty of being a Luddite who thought he knew his way around the Web. Also apparent was that the Times had engaged in significant mischaracterization of some images as well as the purpose of the stash, which was largely a treasure trove of stupidity.
In a fit of rectitude, Kozinski referred himself to a misconduct inquiry. A special panel of the 3rd Circuit – no friend of the troublesome 9th – has admonished Kozinski but found no misconduct. In a 38-page decision, the court headed by Judge Anthony J. Scirica finds that Kozinski has taken appropriate corrective action and expressed contrition.
“We find that the Judge’s possession of sexually explicit offensive material combined with his carelessness in failing to safeguard his sphere of privacy was judicially imprudent. Moreover, once the Judge became aware in 2007 that offensive material could be accessed by members of the public, his inattention to the need for prompt corrective action amounted to a disregard of a serious risk of public embarassment.”
The decision can be read here. http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/089050p.pdf
Kozinski was the youngest appointee to the federal bench at the time, and his impish brilliance has tripped him up before. The L.A. Times accurately reported that Kozinski was admonished, and took the opportunity to re-hash the story. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-kozinski3-2009jul03,0,2032797.story. David Lat at Abovethelaw.com, an admitted Kozinski enthusiast, reported the whole decision without breaking stride to use the word ‘admonishment’. http://abovethelaw.com/2009/07/alex_kozinski_cleared_of_misconduct.php At least Lat is overt about his bias.
A few parting thoughts:
- Kudos to Mark Holscher of Kirkland & Ellis for what seems to be his (typically) deft handling of the explosive situation.
- A search of alex.kozinski.com now yields “Connection Failure.” http://alex.kozinski.com/
- Very little is made of what lawyers considered one of the bigger problems in Kozinski’s trove, which were multiple music and video downloads. The panel lets this go with a note that Kozinski had no intent to distribute them.
- Lurking within the opinion are a couple troubling notes that are synonymous with the arrogant, odd and self-involved Kozinski. The family connected its server to the Internet in 2002. Although ostensibly a private site to share personal photographs with family and about two-dozen friends; Kozinski also used it to share links to his legal writings with fellow judges from around the world; and to provide educational material to students when he taught at law schools. If his technique was “security through obscurity,” it’s not surprising the site became known. In addition, after he became aware the site’s security was compromised in 2005, he and his computer hobbyist son played around at enhancing the site’s security (at the same time offering it up as a replacement site to an international group of judges when its discussion site failed). Once again, in the Fall of 2007, he was made aware the site was accessible by outsiders, but because Kozinski was “very busy” preparing to be Chief Judge, he never found for the “tedious” task of trolling through and deleting hundreds of stupid images and files.
- The judiciary must start educating its members about the Internet. We all know that the videotaped antics of drunken college students live forever on the Internet; so do the ‘cowgirls’ from Kozinski’s stash. He apologized and is probably spending this weekend deleting his stock. Still, a simple search of “Kozinski” and images has immortalized his ‘cowgirls’. [The search is easy to do; a link to these feels both icky and gratuitous.]
So, congratulations on your brush with real trouble, Justice Kozinski. Enjoy the bounce!