Ninth-Circuit Judge Resigns over Sexual Misconduct Charges

At least 15 women have come forward with stories of improper behavior from the federal judge.

Judge Alex Kozinksi (Image: The Recorder)

The #MeToo movement has come for a powerful, lifetime-appointed federal judge in San Francisco.

After at least 15 women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals announced his resignation Monday morning. The courthouse is on Seventh and Mission streets, but he officially chambers in Pasadena. 

The resignation — effective immediately — comes one week after Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Sidney Thomas ordered an investigation into the allegations.

The Washington Post first reported earlier this month that six former law clerks or staffers have said Kozinski subjected them to sexual comments or conduct, such as showing pornographic material and asking if it turned them on.

Another woman said Kozinski, 67, suggested she work out naked at the Ninth Circuit courthouse gym, and repeatedly broached the subject as others in the group tried to move on.

Last week, more serious allegations surfaced from nine more women — some of whom only crossed paths with him at events — of touching, groping, and additional inappropriate sexual comments.

In a statement, Kozinski apologized and mentioned his sense of humor and “candid way of speaking to both male and female law clerks alike” that may not have been mindful of women in the workplace.

“It grieves me to learn that I caused any of my clerks to feel uncomfortable; this was never my intent,” Kozinski says. “I cannot be an effective judge and simultaneously fight this battle.”

In 2008, Kozinski faced another misconduct investigation after a now-defunct website addressed to his name surfaced. In addition to an email list that he sent crude jokes to, his website reportedly contained pornographic images.

Kozinski, who was born in Romania to Holocaust survivors, has been dubbed “controversial” prior to becoming a federal judge. President Ronald Reagan appointed him, but the Senate confirmed him by an 11-vote margin in 1985, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Then 35 years old, he was the youngest federal appellate judge appointed and since gained a reputation for colorful legal opinions. In a high-profile lawsuit filed by Mattel against MCA Records over Aqua’s song “Barbie Girl,” Kozinski famously ended his ruling by stating “The parties are advised to chill.”

He most recently sat on a three-judge panel in San Francisco for a case filed by youth arguing that the federal government’s policies on climate change violate their constitutional rights.

Without Kozinski’s resignation, the path to remove a lifetime-appointed federal judge would have been difficult. Generally, it takes a congressional impeachment to remove a federal judge. 

For all the men losing their jobs over this societal reckoning, government positions have taken longer to dislodge from misbehaving actors. That Kozinski had a lifetime appointment in a prestigious court and bowed to the pressure is no small event.

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