National News

Kozinski, Federal Judge, Retires Abruptly After Sexual Harassment Allegations

Posted December 18, 2017 1:06 p.m. EST
Updated December 18, 2017 1:12 p.m. EST

Alex Kozinski, a high-profile federal court judge in California, is retiring after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, prompting a formal inquiry.

In a statement Monday, Kozinski, 67, said his family and friends had urged him to remain and defend himself, but that doing so would make it difficult to do his job well.

“I cannot be an effective judge and simultaneously fight this battle,” he said in the statement. “Nor would such a battle be good for my beloved federal judiciary. And so I am making the decision to retire, effective immediately.”

Citing a “broad sense of humor and a candid way of speaking to both male and female law clerks alike,” Kozinski, who served on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for 32 years, also offered an apology to his accusers.

“It grieves me to learn that I caused any of my clerks to feel uncomfortable; this was never my intent,” he said. “For this I sincerely apologize.”

At least 15 women had accused Kozinski of subjecting them to unwanted sexual comments or physical contact, including kissing, hugging and groping, according to The Washington Post. The allegations spanned decades and included colleagues as well as women who met him at events.

One woman, Emily Murphy, said that she was a 30-year-old clerk for a different judge when Kozinski suggested to colleagues that she exercise naked.

Murphy, now a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, said in an email that power dynamics in the legal community make it “very challenging” to speak out about a sitting judge.

“As an educator, I owe the next generation of lawyers a better version of the legal profession,” she said.

On Thursday, the current chief judge of the court began a misconduct inquiry prompted by a Washington Post report on accusations from six women against Kozinski. On Friday, The Post published allegations from nine more women.

This is not the first time that Kozinski has faced accusations of inappropriate behavior.

In 2008, The Los Angeles Times reported that he contributed to a website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos, including a photograph of naked women painted to look like cows.

At the time, Kozinski said that his son maintained the site, to which several people contributed material.

“There is a ton of stuff on there,” he told The New York Times. “It’s not a porn site. There’s some funny stuff on there.”

Kozinski, a libertarian known for writing colorful opinions, was first appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. From 2007 to 2014, he served as chief judge of the court, the largest U.S. federal appeals court, covering the entire West Coast.