A former clerk for Judge Alex Kozinski, who retired from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals amid allegations of sexual misconduct, detailed in a new op-ed the “hostile” work environment she experienced clerking for the federal judge, and warned his retirement may have kept other women from coming forward.
Katherine Ku clerked for Kozinski from 2003 to 2004 and now is a corporate and securities counsel at a law firm in Los Angeles. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Ku said she found Kozinski’s “chambers to be a hostile, demeaning and persistently sexualized environment.”
Ku, who also clerked from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is the first and only former clerk who is still in private practice to detail Kozinski’s behavior on the record.
She recalled how the judge wanted to approve the location of her apartment and was unhappy when his clerks didn’t want to eat the same lunch as he did. She recalled one instance where Kozinski asked her to look at a photo of a nude man on his office computer.
Kozinski also allegedly “diminished women and their accomplishments,” and presumed a new Supreme Court clerk was a lesbian, Ku recalled.
“For the rest of my year-long clerkship, I closed the door to my office and communicated with the judge as little as possible,” Ku wrote.
Kozinski retired from the federal bench last month after multiple women, including former female law clerks, accused the judge of sexual misconduct, including inappropriate touching and showing them pornography.
Ku said she was “glad to see him leave the bench,” but said she is frustrated that his retirement has effectively ended an investigation into his misconduct.
“That allows him to disappear, quietly receiving his pension, until the outrage dies down,” she wrote. “It allows him a greater chance at redemption.”
Ku warned it’s possible Kozinski may seek a position teaching at a law school or working “in the realm of private dispute resolution,” and said working in such capacities would “allow him to amend his legacy.”
She said Kozinski’s future in the workplace will be decided without an investigation into his alleged misconduct being completed, and said she was worried the lack of an official investigation could deter more women from coming forward.
“Investigations are not only about defending the rights of the accused,” Ku said. “They can be an important forum for victims to air their stories and for witnesses to share what they have seen. They can be critical for determining proportionate punishment and the suitability of redemption. They prevent us from falling back into collective silence.”