LOS ANGELES – A closely watched obscenity trial in federal court here was suspended Wednesday after the judge acknowledged maintaining his own publicly accessible Web site featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.
Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, granted a 48-hour stay in the obscenity trial of a Hollywood adult filmmaker after the prosecutor requested time to explore “a potential conflict of interest concerning the court having a … sexually explicit Web site with similar material to what is on trial here.”
In an interview Tuesday with the Los Angeles Times, Kozinski acknowledged posting sexual content on his Web site. Among the images on the site were a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal. He defended some of the adult content as “funny” but conceded that other postings were inappropriate.
Kozinski, 57, said he thought the site was for his private storage and that he was not aware the images could be seen by the public, although he also said he had shared some material on the site with friends. After the interview Tuesday evening, he blocked public access to the site.
Kozinski is one of the nation’s highest-ranking judges and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court. He was named chief judge of the 9th Circuit last year and is considered a judicial conservative on most issues. He was appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan in 1985.
After publication of an latimes.com article about his Web site Wednesday morning, the judge offered another explanation for how the material might have been posted to the site. Tuesday evening he had told the Times that he had a clear recollection of some of the most objectionable material and that he was responsible for placing it on the Web. By Wednesday afternoon, as controversy about the Web site spread, Kozinski was seeking to shift responsibility, at least in part, to his adult son, Yale.
“Yale called and said he’s pretty sure he uploaded a bunch of it,” Kozinski wrote in an e-mail to Abovethelaw.com, a legal news Web site. “I had no idea, but that sounds right because I sure don’t remember putting some of that stuff there.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed concern about Kozinski’s Web site.
“If this is true, this is unacceptable behavior for a federal court judge,” she said in a statement.
Kosinski said it was strictly by chance that he wound up presiding over the trial of filmmaker Ira Isaacs in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Appellate judges occasionally hear criminal cases when they have free time on their calendars, and the Isaacs case was one of two he was given, the judge said.
Isaacs is on trial for distributing sexual fetish videos, featuring acts of bestiality and defecation. The material is considerably more vulgar than the content posted on Kozinski’s Web site.
The judge said he didn’t think any of the material he posted would qualify as obscene.
“Is it prurient? I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “I think it’s odd and interesting. It’s part of life.”
Before the site was taken down, visitors to http://alex.kozinski.com were greeted with the message: “Ain’t nothin’ here. Y’all best be movin’ on, compadre.”
Only those who knew to type in the name of a subdirectory could see the content on the site, which also included some of Kozinski’s essays and legal writings as well as music files and personal photos.
Kozinski told the Times that he began saving the sexually explicit materials and other items of interest on his Web site years ago.
“People send me stuff like this all the time,” he said.
In turn, he said he occasionally passes on items he finds interesting or funny to others.