Legal Ethics

9th Circuit Chief Judge Posted Sexually Explicit Materials Online

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Updated: The chief judge of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who is currently presiding over a high-profile obscenity trial in Los Angeles, has reportedly posted sexually explicit images on a personal website.

Judge Alex Kozinski, 57, acknowledged in a Tuesday-evening interview with the Los Angeles Times that he had posted images and videos including “a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal. Some of the material was inappropriate, he conceded, although he defended other sexually explicit content as ‘funny.’ ” Other images on the site earlier this week reportedly included masturbation, public sex and a step-by-step pictorial of a woman shaving her pubic hair.

However, Kozinski said he hadn’t realized the website could be accessed by the public, the newspaper writes, and he blocked the site from the public after his interview with the Times yesterday. The judge also said he hadn’t used court computers in connection with the site and that he had uploaded some of the images accidentally and intended to delete them.

Responding to an request for comment, Cathy Catterson, the circuit and court of appeals executive for the 9th Circuit, provided the following statement:

“With regard to the article in today’s Los Angeles Times, the computer server is maintained by one of the judge’s sons. It is not government property. All family members use it. Pictures, documents, other items of personal and family interest are stored on it. After the story broke, one of the judge’s sons contacted him to say he had uploaded much of the items referenced in the story. The server and its contents are a private matter. It was not meant to be accessible by others and the judge had no idea it was. Had he known, he would have been more careful of its contents.”

Although the Times apparently was able to access the site,, “only those who knew to type in the name of a subdirectory could see the content on the site,” the newspaper writes, “which also included some of Kozinski’s essays and legal writings as well as music files and personal photos.”

As part of a standard rotation among federal appellate judges in the 9th Circuit, who occasionally hear federal district court cases, Kozinski was randomly assigned to preside over the ongoing obscenity trial of Ira Isaacs.

Asked by the Times whether the news of his own postings should require him to step down from hearing the Isaacs trial, Kozinski declined to comment.

However, the judge should recuse himself, law professor Stephen Gillers of New York University tells the newspaper, because “the public can reasonably question his objectivity” concerning the obscenity case.

An Associated Press article says Kozinski told trial attorneys in the Isaacs case, without the jury present, that he had no comment on the merits of the Times story but would consider any recusal motion they might make. “I’m very sorry I didn’t know about this before the jury was sworn,” the judge reportedly told the lawyers.

Attorney Roger Jon Diamond, who represents Isaacs, told Kozinski he opposes removing him from the case. Prosecutor Kenneth Whitted said the government will consider its options and provide its position on the recusal question tomorrow.

Earlier coverage: “Kozinski Joins the Establishment as Chief Judge”

Updated at 7:20 p.m., central time, to include statement provided by Catterson and Associated Press article.

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