A Loophole For Sexual Harassers In The U.S. Judiciary

Alex Kozinski on The Dating Game in 2006.

An upcoming book chronicles a loophole that allows federal judges to not only evade accountability for sexual harassment and bullying but to go on to enjoy a full salary for life and future professional acclaim.

Martha C. Nussbaum, in Citadels of Pride, to be published May 11 by W. W. Norton & Co., explores the tainted career of a former appellate judge who was celebrated for his brilliance, Alex Kozinski, a one-time chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

Nussbaum, a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago, says the Kozinski case shows the “structural weaknesses” of judicial codes of conduct. “E]van an egregious abuser can survive for twenty years if he is bright, flamboyant, well-connected and shameless,” she writes.

The loophole that worked for Kozinski – and others – is that he was permitted to resign in 2017 after more than a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment. Because he was retired, he was eligible to receive his pension – which was his full salary – for the rest of his life.

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The Problem with Federal Judges Who Bully

The case primarily involves age discrimination but includes a sex discrimination claim.

The sex discrimination claim gave rise to a venue dispute involving where the lawsuit could be filed.

The federal government said the case had to be transferred from Arizona to Nevada because of a special venue provision in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination.

The plaintiff, an Arizona woman who is proceeding pro se, argued in court papers that the case should be moved to California, which would be more convenient for her and would not inconvenience the federal government. Alternatively, she  asked to amend her complaint to drop the Title VII claim that gave rise to the venue dispute so the case could remain in Arizona.

The presiding judge was U.S. District Court Judge James A. Soto, 67, a Hispanic who was appointed to the bench in 2014 by former President Barack Obama. The job of a federal judge is to follow the law. Federal judges are paid more than $200,000 a year to put aside their personal bias and prejudice and to be fair.

It was not complicated. Federal courts have ruled that venue should be interpreted broadly in civil rights cases because Congress intended to afford citizens full and easy redress of grievances. Federal rules encourage judges to”freely” grant leave for a Plaintiff  to amend her complaint, barring evidence of ill motive.

Judge Soto agreed that venue was proper in both California and Arizona (if Plaintiff dropped the conflicting sex discrimination claim). However, he ruled, without elaborating, that “judicial efficiency dictates that a transfer to the District of Nevada is in the interest of justice.” Continue reading “The Problem with Federal Judges Who Bully”