Alex’s Porn Collection

No, not this Alex, 9th circuit judge Alex Kozinski, who has recently found himself in the limelight when asked to recuse himself from an obscenity case because he had published “similar” pornographic images to the web. He apparently believed that placing these items in an obscure directory on his private website was enough to hide them from public view. He was wrong. (And here, I disagree with Lessig’s view that it was private-ish.)

Someone sent me a note asking for my opinion on this. I’m not sure that I have a considered opinion. The descriptions of the images seem to be far worse than the images themselves. Two of the images described in the LA Times article appear here (NSFW), in a compilation of putatively humorous images that is not safe for work. Which gives rise to the question of that term: Not Safe for Work. Should a judge be judged by a standard different from the standards by which we judge any other citizen. Bear in mind that he has been accused of circulating distasteful images, not illegal images. I don’t think anyone would suggest that a subscription to Hustler should disqualify someone from the bench.

I can see getting fired for viewing these kind of images at work, particularly if it resulted in co-workers seeing them. I can even see getting fired for intentionally publishing this sort of material on a personal site, if your work found out about it and you were in an industry sensitive to public opinion (as most are). But there was no such intent here. It’s not like he’s been secretive about it; as he admits here, he maintains a “gag list,” from which he sends out “dirty jokes.” (There is more in this interview that seems a bit risque in retrospect.) The question is whether this should impact his role as a judge. I don’t see why it should. Given how few people we have at the appellate level that have even a basic understanding of the online world, it would seem a particularly unfortunate

At worst, I think he can be blamed for a lack of political acumen, and arguably (since it always is) questionable taste. Perhaps he should add “keeping a careful lid on your personal interests” to his advice for aspiring federal judges. And though he’s not a fan of bloggers, this serves as a great example to those who are bloggers of how personal web publishing (by you or your kids) can come back to bite you.

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