Oh, my. It looks like esteemed jurist Alex Kozinski has been very, very naughty.
But before I dive into what can be done about misbehaving federal judges (Kozinski serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) let me first give him a big shout-out for enlivening my job. As someone who covers Big Law, I’ve been bemoaning the dearth of juicy #MeToo moments in the profession. But the judge is doing a spectacular job of filling that void!
In case you’ve been out of the loop, The Washington Post reported that six women (former clerks and externs) complained that Kozinski showed them pornography in his chambers or otherwise made inappropriate, sex-laden comments to them at work. Two of them went public, including Heidi Bond, one of Kozinski’s former clerks, and Emily Murphy, who clerked for another Ninth Circuit judge, Richard Paez.
Are we then totally stuck with Kozinski and his sort? Not exactly, says Stanford Law School professor Deborah Rhode. While Rhode believes that there should be “a full and impartial investigation” into Kozinski’s alleged behavior, she says there’s now far less tolerance for abuse of power. “In this current climate—especially given his history with pornography—people will find it unacceptable.” (In 2008, Kozinski got an admonishment from the judiciary council of the Third Circuit for keeping porn and dirty jokes on a personal website that was accessible to the public.)
Though Rhode concedes that “it’s really hard to impeach a federal judge,” she suggests that there are other ways to skin the Kozinski cat: “The court could decide not assign cases to him, and, I hope, word [of his abuse] will get out to students who are applying for clerkships.”
Another effective weapon, says Rhode, is old-fashioned shaming. “There’s a general trend of taking abuse more seriously, and women are speaking out.” She adds, “There are shaming possibilities, and using blog posts and the press to get the message out [about abuse of power].”Read More