back to article Top Silicon Valley tech battle judge probed over sex pest claims

A misconduct inquiry has been opened into top US tech judge Alex Kozinski over allegations that he showed female law clerks pornography and repeatedly asked inappropriate sexual questions. The inquiry was announced [PDF] Friday by the chief judge of the Ninth Circuit, Sidney R. Thomas, who noted that a formal complaint had …

  1. zanshin

    Good article, except for what I hope a poor choice of words

    "Which makes it that much sadder that he has been accused by numerous women of sexual misconduct."

    I really hope this means: "Which makes it that much sadder that he may have engaged in sexual misconduct, which, if found to be true, could overshadow his legacy of legal acuity."

    Because the current phrasing makes it sound as if it's a shame that women who might have been victims of misconduct had the gall to speak out against such an influential judge.

    And I think it would be a shame if that was what was meant.

    1. kierenmccarthy

      Re: Good article, except for what I hope a poor choice of words

      Fair point. I think the context of the article makes it plain the intent, but it pays to be extremely clear in situations as complex as this.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sounds like he annoyed some powerful people, who've decided to shut him down.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Oops...

      I'm betting it's more like he's been swept up in the harassment charge frenzy that's going on. I'm also betting that this is all collateral damage as the SJW's, Dems, etc. go after Trump which, from various news reports, seem to bear this out. I'm sure there's more coming as this works it way up the food chain.

      The real question is "who's behind it"? The Dems because Trump changed parties and also beat their darling? The various big money guys behind the scenes (think about who supposedly backed "BlackLivesMatter" for example).

      1. Teiwaz

        Re: Oops...

        I'm betting it's more like he's been swept up in the harassment charge frenzy that's going on

        You may well be right, but as these types of 'swells in the righteous' often take on a life of their own, whether originally politically motivated or not, I think it's shortsighted and (above all) politically manipulative to try to push it at the door of one party or another.

        Only an idiot politician would consider throwing themselves behind such a witchhunt, chances are, the next person the mob come baying for the blood of might well be them.

        Unfortunately, many of them do it anyway, hoping the tide will sweep them into high office.

        Honestly, it's usually the conservatives that start these things IMO.

        Humans in whatever role need to accept and deal with the fact that most humans are flawed, often lazy and looking for the easy way, but often tenacious and obsessive and are going to make mistakes, it's often how we learn. Currently, any mistakes or poor choices on matters sexual result in consequences that are largely meaningless in learning anything. Get hit by one, and you might as well continue and enjoy it, because no one is going to let you come back from it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems sound

    We need more judges that can see through waffle, and hold the opinion that if communication via the internet is the only difference between an existing and a 'novel' invention or business method, it shouldn't be patentable.

    Perhaps a nice vacation in East Texas, while all this blows over?

  4. TrumpSlurp the Troll

    Tricky one - does one attribute affect the other.

    If much of the alleged activity is true, you have this dichotomy.

    A clear, intelligent, forward looking thinker with a record of being correct on many major current issues.

    A sexual predator with a major sense of entitlement who can't control himself at work, and is thus a potential menace to female staff.

    It is very difficult to separate personal moral attributes from results. Poor control of sexual urges doesn't automatically invalidate intellectual output but it does set a price on further productive work. However it can taint previous work. In the music industry both Jonathan King and Garry Glitter produced innovative and highly rated music, but are now mainly censored because of unacceptable sexual perversions. Much the same for paintings by Rolf Harris. Anyone watching his TV shows could see enormour talent. However his sexual perversions now overshadow the talent shown in his paintings although the paintings haven't changed.

    Bottom line; whatever the outcome, this shouldn't be used to invalidate previous legal judgements. The really tricky part is deciding if he can still be allowed to work (with appropriate safeguards) if it turns out he was guilty. Think, perhaps, of Wernher von Braun and rockets, or perhaps a philosopher writing in a jail cell.

    1. zanshin

      Re: Tricky one - does one attribute affect the other.

      With the massive caveat that I'm not a student of US jurisprudence, I'm not aware of anything about this situation having a risk of invalidating this judge's previous rulings, even if the charges of inappropriate behavior are found to be true. It might be different if a judge were found guilty of misdeeds where their past rulings involved clear conflicts of interest with their actions. This doesn't seem to be such a case.

      Should we losing a clear-minded and forward thinking judge, though, that's clearly a regrettable state of affairs, even *if* it does turn out to be justified. And I do think that's what our intrepid reporter was pointing out.

    2. Eddy Ito

      Re: Tricky one - does one attribute affect the other.

      So far it seems the known complaints are limited to being asked if particular porn images were photoshopped and if she found that kind of stuff arousing and comments about working out naked while the gym was empty. While certainly in poor taste, I can see how Kosinski might see the former as an attempt to understand the thought patterns of other people and not intentionally meaning to cause distress. Likewise, if the clerk doesn't speak out saying they find it distasteful and/or offensive one might reasonably not think anything of it and that's especially true when dealing with someone who often thinks somewhat differently from many as evidenced by his "disagreeing with everyone" opinion. It could simply be more a matter of being socially inept rather than sexual predator. Having said that, I do have to agree that the exercising naked comments made to the other clerk are over the top.

      Perhaps the most fascinating bit is his own comments on the matter from 1992 at the end of the WaPo article and that he joined an opinion that such cases "should be judged from the perspective of the victims".

    3. wayward4now

      Re: Tricky one - does one attribute affect the other.

      All of this running to the press activity should be declared illegal, with appropriate penalty. If a crime has occurred, report it to the police. Then let them investigate and file appropriate charges, which are then sent to a Grand Jury and subsequent trial by a jury. While this process is going on, there should be no releases to the press.

  5. The Nazz

    If no means no.

    The track record of his judicial work appears superb, ahead of his time, delivered concisely often wittily. And now showing to be correct, against the prevailing views of the time and being the better way forward.

    His track record hosting porn doesn't appear too bad, some of it quite amusing. (Side note : the ex didn't need to be painted to resemble a cow.)

    As for the handful of complainants, shouldn't they be simply told to "grow a pair"?. Maybe the prevailing view of the current time will, in the near future, be seen for what it is.

    Employer : Here, come and look at this, this porn on the PC.

    Employee : NO.

    Or alternatively

    Employer : Here, come and look at the diversity* of this porn on the PC

    Employee : Ooooh yeah, lovverly ain't it.

    I seriously doubt that the Judge is losing any time or intellectual capacity, at all, in fulfilling his judicial duties and responsibilities.

    Shouldn't such levels of outrage, and the white knightmanship in many cases, be better directed at more significant, and truly damaging, areas of concern.

    Hint : Cafcass**, parental alienation, harm to children. In 2017.

    * Not that it isn't already one of the most diverse of employers. So i'm led to believe.

    ** IIRC a UK all party parliamentary committee decided they were unfit for purpose. Plus ca change.

    1. The Nazz

      Re: If no means no.

      That last bit should read that it was back in 2009 they were declared unfit for purpose.

    2. Trilkhai

      It shouldn't be going on in the first place

      Thing is, though, employees shouldn't be forced to tell a harasser to knock it off over-and-over as was the case here. Both sexes should be able to focus on their work without being harassed or needing to worry that rejecting boss' advances the wrong way will impact their job/career — it shouldn't depend on whether the boss is attracted to men or women.

      Edit to add: I'm all for people joking around bawdily, but doing it persistently when the target is clearly not appreciating it isn't cool — just like the gap between laughing with someone versus at them.

  6. Cuddles Silver badge

    When is a cow not a cow?

    I'm not convinced a woman painted to look like a cow counts as bestiality.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When is a cow not a cow?

      Body painting for fashion purposes is quite the fad at the moment, and I don't think it's illegal. So, nothing to answer for there.

      "running an email list that was used to send crude sexual jokes"

      is this illegal? If so, there are a lot of people this could be levelled at, starting with the entire population of Reddit.

      Anyone else noticing how causing someone mild offence is suddenly becoming career ending, pseudo legal accusations?

  7. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    Apparently, he has stepped down. It's a shame that such a head could be mislead by such a head.

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