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Judge, accused of putting porn on his website, steps away from obscenity trial

By A. James Memmott

June 16, 2008 at 7:27am

Federal judge Alex Kozinski was once described in the magazine Legal Affairs as “zany and bawdy, a high-pitched giggler and an anything-goes storyteller.”

Turns out that Kozinski, a well-regarded and well-connected jurist, may be too zany, too bawdy.

Kozinski, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, declared a mistrial last week in a case he was hearing involving federal obscenity charges.

The judge took this action after the Los Angeles Times revealed that he had posted sexually explicit materials on his own website, a website that was accessible to the public.

Alex Kozinski
Alex Kozinski

Cyrus Sanai, a lawyer who has objected to some of Kozinski’s rulings, had directed the newspaper to Kozinski’s site.

Kozinski, who in the past has been mentioned as possible U.S. Supreme Court justice, called for the appointment of an ethics panel to investigate his own conduct. U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts today assigned five federal judges to undertake the investigation.

Kozinski said that he had not intended the site to be available to the public. The married father of three also said that some of the material may have been posted by mistake or by his son, Yale.

Yale Kozinski, a film editor, told The New York Times that he operates the site and it was meant to be “friends and family.”

The site contained a variety of pictures, including one of two naked woman painted as cows. There were also an image of a sexually aroused donkey in pursuit of a man who had been defecating in a field, as well as a staged photo that showed a man dressed in clerical garb in a sexual situation.

Kozinski conceded to the Los Angeles Times that some of the material could be seen as “inappropriate,” though he defended most of it as “funny.”

Kozinski suggested to The New York Times that the website had been inaccurately described. “There is a ton of stuff on there,” he said. “It’s not a porn site. There’s some funny stuff on there.”

The son of Romanian immigrants and Holocaust survivors, Kozinski, 57, graduated from the UCLA Law School.

He then clerked for Anthony Kennedy, the future Supreme Court justice, who was then an appeals court judge. After that, he clerked for Chief Justice Warren Burger of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kozinski later served in the Reagan White House as an assistant counsel, and he went on to become the chief judge of the U.S. Claims Court.

President Reagan appointed Kozinski to the 9th Circuit in 1985, making him the youngest federal appeals court judge at the time.

Described as a libertarian, Kozinski is known for the clarity of his writing and for his political skills in managing the court, which includes California and eight other western states in its jurisdiction.

Gregarious and hardly publicity shy, Kozinski was a contestant on the Dating Game long before he was a federal judge.

The television show begun in the 1960s asked a woman to select a date from a panel of bachelors. As bachelor No. 2 in 1968, Kozinski was selected, but his date then reportedly stood him up.

Kozinski cited his Dating Game appearance when he nominated himself for a “Judicial Hottie” contest conducted by the website Underneath Their Robes in 2004.

“I have it on very good authority that discerning females and gay men find graying, pudgy, middle-aged men with an accent close to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s almost totally irresistible,” Kozinski wrote.

The existence of the racy website was revealed when Kozinski was presiding over the opening stages of the trial of filmmaker Ira Isaacs.

Isaacs is accused of distributing hard-core videos, some showing scenes of bestiality. He plans to defend them as works of art. Isaacs expressed disappointment at Kozinski’s departure from the trial.

“I thought he was a fair judge,” Isaacs told the L.A. Times. “I feel terrible that my trial caused this information to come out.”

Below is a clip of Kozinski on the Dating Game:

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