Why the Kozinski Case Shows the Need For Major Judicial Reforms
In October of 2017, the New York Times and the New Yorker published major stories detailing extensive sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations against Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. This story was soon followed by many other exposés on sexual misconduct, both in Hollywood and in many other industries. Unfortunately, the legal field is no exception. Sexual harassment and sexual abuse both remain a serious problem in the legal profession.
The Case of Judge Kozinski
One of the most high profile cases of sexual misconduct in the legal profession involved Alex Kozinski, a long-standing judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On December 8th, 2017, a report in the Washington Post highlighted serious allegations of sexual misconduct against Judge Kozinski. According to reports, the judge made lewd and inappropriate sexual comments and unexpectedly showed pornographic images to young female interns. Soon after the report was released, Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas requested a full investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations. However, less than one week after a judicial council launched the investigation, Judge Kozinski abruptly retired from the bench.
The Investigation Has Been Dropped: No Resolution
On February 5th, 2018, after nearly two months of waiting, and without reporting any findings, the investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Judge Kozinski has been closed. Under current law, the judicial council responsible for this complaint believes that it lacks the authority to conduct an investigation. As the judicial council stated in a four page order, the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980 only allows this type of investigation to be conducted into “individuals who currently exercise the powers of the office of federal judge.” In other words, judges can thwart judicial investigations by simply retiring.
Deep Judicial Reforms are Needed
The case of Judge Kozinski highlights the need for serious judicial reforms. Current rules allow judges to get away with serious sexual misconduct by simply leaving the bench. This is a shame on the court system. The judiciary and the legal profession must uphold high standards of ethics and accountability. It is unacceptable that a federal judge can retire to avoid an investigation into sexual harassment. There are clearly structural issues that make it difficult for victims of sexual abuse to get justice.
In January Chief Justice John Roberts formed a Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group to review issues of employee protection and inappropriate workplace conduct. The case of Judge Kozinski shows where some serious gaps currently exist. Reforms are needed. It is imperative that rules are changed in order to ensure that employees are protected, sexual misconduct is prevented, and that perpetrators are held accountable.
At Stanger Law, our legal team is committed to advocating for the rights of victims of sexual misconduct. If you have been a victim of professional sexual harassment, or sexual abuse in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact our West Hartford office today for a fully confidential consultation.