Probe Finds Kozinski’s Sexually Explicit Photos Were ‘Judicially Imprudent’

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A federal judicial council has admonished Judge Alex Kozinski for keeping sexually explicit materials on a personal website, concluding an ethics investigation spurred by a June 2008 Los Angeles Times article.

How Appealing reported on the June 5 opinion (PDF), released yesterday.

The judicial council of the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was appointed to investigate after the Los Angeles Times reported that images and videos on Kozinski’s personal website included “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.” Kozinski, chief judge of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said at the time that he wasn’t aware the website could be accessed by the public.

The questionable images were in a subdirectory on Kozinski’s computer and “constituted a small fraction of a vast aggregation of various items that the judge had received by e-mail over many years,” the opinion said. The computer was connected to the Internet, and an improper security configuration, along with carelessness on the judge’s part, made the files accessible to uninvited visitors.

The panel said the judge’s possession of the material and his failure to “safeguard his sphere of privacy” were “judicially imprudent.” Internet users were able to access the subdirectory containing the sexually explicit postings by noting the link to a video of Kozinski bungee jumping that was sent to the blog Underneath Their Robes. Yahoo apparently found the link and indexed the contents of the offending subdirectory.

The opinion said the judge failed to take prompt corrective action when he learned of the problem in 2007, amounting to “a disregard of a serious risk of public embarrassment.” He had taken “some small steps” to shield the offensive material, but he failed to complete the task or to disconnect his computer from the Internet, according to the opinion.

“We join with the special committee in admonishing the judge that his conduct exhibiting poor judgment with respect to this material created a public controversy that can reasonably be seen as having resulted in embarrassment to the institution of the federal judiciary,” the judicial council’s opinion said.

The panel noted Kozinski acknowledged responsibility and apologized in testimony before a special committee of the 3rd Circuit that conducted the investigation.

Kozinski had said he had downloaded many of the files without viewing them, intending to look at them later when he had time. “It has never been my intention to offend or demean anyone,” he told the special committee. “I have now looked at the files in question and fully agree that many would rightfully find them offensive and demeaning. Indeed, I find some of them offensive and demeaning.”

The judicial council noted that the offending material has since been removed and destroyed. “Accordingly, this proceeding is properly concluded.”

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