The sexual misconduct allegations that have cut a swath through Congress brought down a prominent member of the judicial branch Monday with the resignation of Alex Kozinski, a federal appeals court judge known for his blunt and colorful legal opinions.
Kozinski, a 67-year-old member and former chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s largest federal appeals court, said in a statement that a battle over the accusations would not be good for the judiciary. He retired, effective immediately.
The move came days after the 9th Circuit opened a misconduct inquiry following the first in a pair of Washington Post stories that said 15 women — some of whom worked for him as law clerks or in other positions — accused him of groping them, making lewd comments or showing them pornography.
Kozinski, who was known to have a bawdy side well before his resignation, said that while speaking in a “candid way” with male and female clerks, he “may not have been mindful enough of the special challenges and pressures that women face in the workplace.”
“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.”
The 9th Circuit hears cases from nine Western states, including California and Arizona, and has been bitterly criticized by President Donald Trump following rulings that blocked his travel ban against mostly Muslim countries.
Some legal experts said Kozinski’s resignation may help the judiciary avoid an embarrassing, drawn-out investigation that would damage its reputation and potentially imperil its independence. Federal judges are appointed for life and can be removed only by impeachment by Congress. The goal is to maintain judicial independence by preventing the easy removal of judges for unpopular decisions.
“I take him at his word that he probably understood that this could be very detrimental to the federal judiciary and to individuals in the judiciary and his colleagues,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.
It was not clear whether the investigation of Kozinski by the judiciary will continue. An email to a 9th Circuit spokesman was not immediately returned.
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