Judging a Judge
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." ~ Matthew7:1-2
Federal court judges have the advantage of being appointed to a seat of authority with a lifetime to uphold justice. While federal judges are blessed with the privilege to judge the conduct of American citizens, ensuring that we are legally and morally within the bounds of the legal system, who or what is in place to ensure that our judges are living within their legal and moral bounds? Further, if those boundaries are overstepped, what should be the consequence?
Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, overstepped a clear moral boundary by posting obscene pictures on his personal website. Kozinski posted grotesques photos, which included naked women on all fours painted to look like cows, and a video of a half-dressed man prancing around with sexually aroused farm animals. Knowing that a man in one of the most prestigious and respected positions in the federal judiciary is entertaining himself with bestiality is bad enough, but to hear that these images were open to the public is appalling.
To make matters worse, when Kozinski was interviewed1 about the images on his website, he said that he thought the images were funny. We do not want a man who finds pictures of naked women painted as cows and men running around with aroused farm animals judging our character and conduct.
Kozinski not only overstepped moral boundaries with his actions, but he violated federal court regulations. As a result, he may no longer be able to preside over a case dealing with a Los Angeles filmmaker accused of distributing criminally obscene sexual fetish videos, but the consequences should be far more severe.
The Code of Conduct for United States Judges is a list of seven canons, or rules, by which judges must abide in order to properly perform their duties. In this day and age, many people complain that violations of Canon 3 by activist judges create a danger to our justice system. Canon 3 spells out that, "A Judge Should Perform the Duties of the Office impartially and diligently." Clearly, activist judges are making decisions based on their personal agenda rather than interpreting the law. So much for impartiality!
At the same time, we cannot ignore the threat posed by violations of Canon 2, which surely applies to Kozinski's actions. Canon 2 asks judges to "avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities." This canon also states that a judge should respect and comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
Now that the errors of his heart have come to light, Kozinski will never again be able "to promote public confidence in the integrity … of the judiciary." Citizens being judged, and other courts reading his opinions, will never again truly respect the nature of his opinions dealing with character and judgment. All men suffer from temptation and times of weakness, but Kozinski is so mired in immorality that he finds the behavior amusing.
Rather than merely being removed from the obscenity case, Kozinski should face more serious consequences. After a full investigation, Kozinski should lose his seat on the bench.
It is an honor to sit on the bench of a United States federal court, and the people who are granted such an honor must abide by higher standards in order to provide credibility and confidence in their decisions. If judges like Alex Kozinski cannot meet these standards, they ought not to serve as judges.
The greatest fear is that men like Judge Kozinski, who seem to lack the ability to discern right from wrong or, worse yet, who think wrongdoing is funny, will not be able to respect the rights of innocent (till proven guilty) and will let the guilty go unpunished.
Jonathan Trapp is an intern with Concerned Women for America's (CWA) Ronald Reagan Memorial Internship Program. To learn more about an internship with CWA, click here.
- Scott Glover, 9th Circuit's Chief Judge Posted Sexually Explicit Matter on His Website, L.A. Times, June 11, 2008, available at http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jun/11/local/me-kozinski12.
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