Judge Accused of Showing Porn to Clerk Faces U.S. Courts Probe

(Bloomberg) -- Alex Kozinski, a prominent judge at the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, faces a misconduct investigation after half a dozen women who worked in his office complained about inappropriate sexual conduct or comments.

The chief judge of the court initiated the probe Thursday based on a report in the Washington Post detailing allegations by Kozinski’s former clerks and other staffers, including a claim by a woman who worked for the judge a decade ago that he called her into his office, pulled up pornography on his computer, and asked if it aroused her sexually. A call to the judge’s chambers wasn’t immediately returned.

The judge has said he didn’t recall ever showing pornographic material to his clerks. “If this is all they are able to dredge up after 35 years, I am not too worried,” Kozinski, who was appointed to the court in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan, told the Los Angeles Times.

What punishment the judge would face if the accusations are found true is another matter. Federal judges, who have lifetime tenure, can be impeached by Congress, but that’s only happened four times in the last 20 years -- in cases involving corruption, sexual assault and nepotism.

Kozinski was admonished by an ethics panel in 2009 for “poor judgment” for failing to shield his personal collection of sexually explicit material from public view on the internet. Some legal ethics professors called the ruling an exoneration and others said it approached the seriousness of a reprimand. The panel, though critical, found no actual misconduct.

Kozinski acknowledged causing embarrassment for the judiciary, but said the photos in question were kept on a private server and weren’t intended to be shared publicly.

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