Law Professor Says She Warned Students About Judge Kozinski

By Patrick L. Gregory

Law professor Nancy Rapoport “didn’t consider” an inappropriate comment made to her by Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski “to be sexual harassment,” but it did raise a red flag, she told Bloomberg Law Dec. 11.

Harassment allegations from six women against the former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit surfaced Dec. 8 in a Washington Post story.

Those allegations involve a “range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments,” including a charge that the judge asked a clerk to view pornography in his office several times, the story said.

The judge asked Rapoport, “What do single girls in San Francisco do for sex?” while she was clerking for Judge Joseph T. Sneed from 1985–86, she said in a blog post Dec. 9.

The comment was “just bad taste,” Rapoport, now a professor at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law, told Bloomberg Law by text message Dec. 11.

But it was troubling enough for her to tell “countless female law students that I would never write them a letter of recommendation for a clerkship with” Kozinski, Rapoport said in her blog post.

“I worried that he might not change his behavior if he had someone working with him,” Rapoport told Bloomberg Law by telephone Dec. 11.

“In general, someone who makes those kinds of comments—I question their ability to understand how to work with others,” she said.

The judge “said he was unaware of any formal complaint against him and noted that he has employed 120 clerks and 400 externs over the years,” according to a Los Angeles Times story published Dec. 8.

“Judge Kozinski continues to hear cases,” and the “court has no comment at this time regarding the course of action that will be taken in this matter,” David J. Madden, the Ninth Circuit’s public information officer, told Bloomberg Law by e-mail Dec. 12.

“I cannot say whether or not a misconduct complaint has been brought against Judge Kozinski” because the “misconduct process is confidential,” Madden said.

Rapoport is an editor of Bloomberg Law: Bankruptcy Treatise.

Mistrust of Government

Kozinski has a “healthy mistrust” of governmental power that he attributes to having experienced a totalitarian regime in Romania as a child, he told Bloomberg BNA in 2015.

Since he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, he’s gained a reputation for making controversial statements about government power.

He told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in 2015 that if the U.S. wished to continue using capital punishment, it should return to more reliable methods like firing squads or guillotines.

Kozinski wrote that if “we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all,” dissenting in 2014’s Wood v. Ryan .

He also expressed concern about the power wielded by prosecutors, in 1993’s United States v. Kojayan .

“The overwhelming majority of prosecutors are decent, ethical, honorable lawyers who understand the awesome power they wield, and the responsibility that goes with it,” Kozinski wrote.

But “the temptation is always there: It’s the easiest thing in the world for people trained in the adversarial ethic to think a prosecutor’s job is simply to win,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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