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Kozinski Sued By Attorney Who Complained About Website Porn (1)

Dec. 16, 2019, 10:26 PM; Updated: Dec. 17, 2019, 1:01 AM

A California attorney who years ago complained about pornography on Alex Kozinski’s personal website is suing the former appeals judge who ultimately resigned amid a sex harassment scandal and others for $40 million.

Cyrus Sanai alleges that Kozinski, several judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the circuit’s Judicial Council were aware of the porn that was the subject of media coverage in 2008, but helped keep it quiet and retaliated against those who sought to expose misconduct, including Sanai.

Fifteen women, including some former law clerks, accused Kozinski nearly a decade later of groping them, showing them pornography, or making off-color comments. Kozinski retired shortly after the allegations surfaced, and a judicial investigation was short-circuited by his decision to step down.

Kozinski said it was never his intent to make his clerks feel uncomfortable, and apologized for doing so.

The Kozinski saga trained the #MeToo sex harassment spotlight on the judiciary, and prompted an overhaul of how federal courts respond to and investigate allegations of harassment within their ranks.

Sanai and Kozinski have a contentious history.

The two tangled in 2005 over a misconduct complaint Sanai had filed against the judge in an unrelated matter. Kozinski apologized and recused himself from the case Sanai was involved with. The complaint was dismissed.

Sanai contended in 2007 that he discovered “certain material” on Kozinski’s personal website and apparently alerted the Los Angeles Times, which published an article asserting the judge “maintained a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos,” according to the Judicial Council of the Third Circuit, which investigated the matter.

The court eventually admonished Kozinski, who apologized and took down the site. Sanai called the investigation a “complete whitewash.”

Sanai contends the Judicial Council, which evaluated his complaint, was aware that Kozinski viewed pornography from that website, and had used it “for his continued hazing and sexual harassment of his clerks” and secretly let him take his website off-line and “scrub the contents.”

In retaliation for filing a “valid misconduct complaint,” Sanai says the Judicial Council “issued a published censure” of him and tried to have him disbarred.

Sanai asked in his suit for a declaratory judgment that fully sets out the history of Kozinski’s sex harassment, the “enablement” of it by the defendants, and “retaliatory conduct” against him.

He’s seeking millions in damages and is also asking for punitive damages.

Kozinski, who recently argued a case as a private lawyer, the Ninth Circuit, and the court’s Judicial Council didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Cause of Action: Injunctive relief for violation of constitutional rights, declaratory judgment

Relief: Declaratory judgment, punitive damages

The case is Sanai v. Kozinski, N.D. Cal., No. 3:19-cv-08162, complaint filed 12/16/19.

(Adds complained about pornography in first paragraph and details from Third Circuit case about Los Angeles Times article.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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