Here’s a headline that’ll grab your attention: 9th Circuit’s chief judge posted sexually explicit materials on his website. And in an especially ironic development, the judge is Alex Kozinski, who is presiding over the first obscenity trial here in L.A. in years:
One of the highest-ranking federal judges in the United States, who is currently presiding over an obscenity trial in Los Angeles, has maintained a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.
Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, acknowledged in an interview with The Times that he had posted the materials, which 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. Some of the material was inappropriate, he conceded, although he defended other sexually explicit content as “funny.”
I’m not inclined to be judgmental about this. I’m fairly certain I have no depictions of naked women on all fours painted like cows . . . but still. Let he who has never viewed porn cast the first stone.
More details on Kozinski’s collection:
Kozinski said he would delete some material from his site, including the photo depicting women as cows, which he said was “degrading . . . and just gross.” He also said he planned to get rid of a graphic step-by-step pictorial in which a woman is seen shaving her pubic hair.
Kozinski said he must have accidentally uploaded those images to his server while intending to upload something else. “I would not keep those files intentionally,” he said. The judge pointed out that he never used appeals court computers to maintain the site.
The sexually explicit material on Kozinski’s site earlier this week was extensive, including images of masturbation, public sex and contortionist sex. There was a slide show striptease featuring a transsexual, and a folder that contained a series of photos of women’s crotches as seen through snug fitting clothing or underwear. There were also themes of defecation and urination, though they are not presented in a sexual context.
The interesting issue is whether this mandates recusal from the obscenity trial.
Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor who specializes in legal ethics, told The Times that Kozinski should recuse himself from the Isaacs case because “the public can reasonably question his objectivity” concerning the issues at hand.
Gillers, who has known Kozinski for years and called him “a treasure of the federal judiciary,” said he took the judge at his word that he did not know the site was publicly available. But he said Kozinski was “seriously negligent” in allowing it to be discovered.
“The phrase ‘sober as a judge’ resonates with the American public,” Gillers said. “We don’t want them to reveal their private selves publicly. This is going to upset a lot of people.”
Gillers said the disclosure would be humiliating for Kozinski and would “harm his reputation in many quarters,” but that the controversy should die there.
He added, however, that if the public concludes the website was intended for the sharing of pornographic material, “that’s a transgression of another order.”
“It would be very hard for him to come back from that,” he said.
Well, I doubt very seriously that the public would conclude that. And there are no hypocrisy charges to level, since Kozinski is a well-known libertarian. He’s probably embarrassed, to be sure — but not half as much as a lot of other people would be in a similar situation. The article notes that Kozinski “has developed a reputation as a champion of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression. Several years ago, for example, after learning that appeals court administrators had placed filters on computers that denied access to pornography and other materials, Kozinski led a successful effort to have the filters removed.”
But still, it’s hard to see how a judge who has depictions of defecation and “cavorting” suggestive of bestiality can preside over an obscenity trial featuring defecation and bestiality. Especially when it’s revealed in such a public way, during the trial. (The story is currently at the top of the L.A. Times web site.) The jurors would spend the trial wondering if the judge planned to copy the videos once the trial is over. It’s just a bad situation all around.
I agree with Prof. Gillers. Judge Kozinski should recuse himself.
UPDATE: A Google search for “women painted as cows” with all filters turned off yields this completely not safe for work image of a fully naked woman painted as a cow. Either this is a widespread phenomenon, or this is one of the pictures Kozinski had on his site.
UPDATE x2: In an e-mail to David Lat, Kozinski says that his son uploaded some of the material to a shared server. It doesn’t sound like he’s trying to pretend he never saw it, just that it was his son who uploaded the material to the server. (Via Howard.)
UPDATE x3: Kozinski has suspended the trial to allow the parties time to consider whether to request that he be removed.
UPDATE x4: A commenter at Ace’s links another not safe for work picture of a naked woman painted as a cow. Maybe it is a widespread phenomenon . . .
UPDATE x5: After reading comments here, I think I may have found the video with the man and the aroused farm animal. Might as well link that too! Once again, this is all decidedly not safe for work, but I do think — assuming this is the material we’re talking about, and we don’t know that — that it sheds light on whether the material Kozinski had is truly offensive, humorous, or something else.
UPDATE x6: Wow. It has been revealed who the tipster was: attorney Cyrus Sanai. He had disputes with Kozinski in the past; indeed, I have blogged about them. This is worth a new post.
UPDATE x7: I have spoken with the tipster to the L.A. Times, who sent me some of the images he downloaded from Kozinski’s site. You can view them here.
Ultimately, he may have a bigger and more lasting problem with the issue of whether he chose to share .mp3’s. We’ll follow up on that in coming days.