How is it possible that Judge Brett Kavanaugh did not know about serial sexual harasser Judge Alex Kozinski in spite of working closely with him?
July 10, 2018

It seems that newly-minted SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh likely has a Jim Jordan problem.

Reach back into your memory to December, 2017, when 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski abruptly "retired" amid a cascade of accusations about how he harassed his clerks and others.

Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski, and then served alongside him to screen clerks for Anthony Kennedy.

Heidi Bond, a former clerk of Kozinski's and now a romance novelist writing as Courtney Milan, wrote a wrenching first-person account of what it was like to work with him. In her account, she describes Kozinski pulling up pornographic photos and asking her opinion of them. But worse -- far worse -- than that was his constant abuse of power and bullying.

As an example, one day, my judge found out I had been reading romance novels over my dinner break. He called me (he was in San Francisco for hearings; I had stayed in the office in Pasadena) when one of my co-clerks idly mentioned it to him as an amusing aside. Romance novels, he said, were a terrible addiction, like drugs, and something like porn for women, and he didn’t want me to read them any more. He told me he wanted me to promise to never read them again.

“But it’s on my dinner break,” I protested.

He laid down the law—I was not to read them anymore. “I control what you read,” he said, “what you write, when you eat. You don’t sleep if I say so. You don’t shit unless I say so. Do you understand?”

There was nothing to say but this: “Yes, Judge.”

This sort of diatribe was a regular occurrence. The judge had incredibly high standards, and when we failed to meet them, we were raked over the coals. I do not think a week passed without at least one such outburst; during bad times, they were a daily occurrence.

Kozinski's despicable treatment of women was an open secret according to Alexandra Brodsky. "In law school, everyone knew, and women didn't apply to clerk for Judge Kosinski despite his prestige and connections to the Supreme Court," she wrote on Twitter. That meant more openings for men -- openings that would lead to a clerkship on the Supreme Court for the rest of them.

Professor Nancy Rapoport says she would not write letters of recommendation for female students to clerk with him because of her own experience, which pre-dates Kavanaugh's clerkship in 1991. Though she did not clerk for Kozinski, she had an encounter with him during her clerkship for Judge Joseph Sneed which stayed with her.

Two things stand out in my memory. One was that he asked me, “What do single girls in San Francisco do for sex?” Another was, after I said I needed to head home because I had to absorb the news that my mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, he offered to “comfort” me. There was no reporting relationship between him and me, and I certainly never believed that my job with Judge Sneed was ever in jeopardy because of my interactions with Judge Kozinski. I just thought that the judge exhibited extremely poor taste.

As a consequence, she would not recommend female clerks for Kozinski's court.

After Kavanaugh was announced, Courtney Milan/Heidi Bond tweeted, " This is at least the second time Kavanaugh has cozied up to a harasser for power, and that’s a trend for him."

She elaborated:

Concluding, she says, "To not know would require a degree of willful blindness which is, in my mind, as disqualifying as actual knowledge."

Like Jordan, Kavanaugh is likely to say he saw nothing, heard nothing, and nothing was reported to him. There's a reason for the last: Kozinski routinely bullied his young female clerks into silence. But as to the seeing and hearing nothing, well, Bond/Milan has an answer for that, too. "The last thing this country needs is a Supreme Court Justice who squeezes his eyes shut so tightly that he can’t see what’s in front of his face."

Professor Leah Litman observes that this really does matter on a number of levels and Senators must inquire about this with purpose and pointed questions.

"This line of questioning is also important because of recent revelations about how workplace misconduct is an issue in the federal judiciary, too," Litman wrote. "#SCOTUS justices are in a position to do something about it, in part by selecting which appellate judges they reward in various ways."

In the world of the good old boys club of Ivy League schools and right wing grooming for the federal judiciary, it matters. It matters a lot. A serial sexual harasser who openly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy has just nominated a man who at best, squeezed his eyes shut so hard he missed his dear mentor's serial harassment of young female clerks.

We already know the "at best" part isn't true. Alex Kozinski was and likely still is a serial sexual harasser. His former clerk and dear associate Brett Kavanaugh knows it too.

Senators, you must ask about this. We cannot abide a Supreme Court justice who will close his eyes to injustices done to women.

Courtney's poignant tweet about the damage Kozinski did to her speaks volumes:

We wonder too. Shame on Kozinski's enablers, including Brett Kavanaugh.

Update: In 2008, Justice Kennedy dismissed the furor over Kozinski's public posting of porn to his website as "silly."

See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. It's all just silly.

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