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Kozinski Calls for His Own Investigation

LOS ANGELES – The criminal prosecution of a hard-core pornographer has turned into a personal trial for the presiding judge.

Judge Alex Kozinski called for an investigation into his own conduct for storing lewd photos and videos on a publicly accessible Web site, asking an ethics panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday to initiate proceedings after the disclosure.

“I will cooperate fully in any investigation,” Kozinski, chief judge of the circuit, said in a statement.

Kozinski called on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to assign the inquiry to a panel of judges outside the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction of nine western states. Court rules permit such investigations to be transferred in high-profile cases, or when a decision within a district might weaken public confidence in the outcome.

Kozinski, 57, is known for his intellectual rigor, writing flourishes and outlandish personality.

But the graphic material has opened questions about his fitness to serve on the high-profile obscenity case as well as the standard for what types of images are taboo, particularly on a judge’s personal Web site.

“If you found this kind of thing in your kid’s bedroom you would wash your kid’s mouth out with soap,” said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at Loyola University Law School. “Character counts for judges because they have so much power and affect so many people’s lives.”

The computerized cache included a picture of two nude women on all fours painted to look like cows, images of masturbation, a video of a bare-bottomed man being pursued by a sexually aroused donkey and a slide show featuring a striptease with a transsexual.

It’s unclear what, if any, discipline Kozinski could face. Circuit judges are appointed for life and can only be fired by Congress, though they can be censured by fellow jurists.

Kozinski did not immediately respond to a request for an interview Thursday.

He left court Wednesday without comment after suspending the trial of Ira Isaacs, who is charged with obscenity for selling movies depicting bestiality and fetishes involving feces and urination. The delay until Monday will give lawyers time to consider whether to ask for Kozinski to step down from the case.

The existence of the videos and pictures was first revealed by the Los Angeles Times, which reported that Kozinski had acknowledged the material on his personal Web site, but blocked access to it after being interviewed. He claimed the images were not obscene.

The judge, a married father of three sons, told the newspaper he didn’t know the Web site was accessible to Internet surfers. Kozinski told the Times he had posted sexual content on the site, but later said in an email to the legal Web site abovethelaw.com that his son, Yale, may have been responsible.

“I sure don’t remember putting some of that stuff there,” he wrote.

Yale Kozinski told The New York Times that the site is registered to him and he maintains it, but he never made clear who posted the images in question. He said it’s possible for family or friends to post to the site, alex.kozinski.com.

Federal rules say judges should “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Cyrus Sanai, a Beverly Hills lawyer who has had a long-running dispute with the 9th Circuit, took credit for bringing the graphic material to light.

Sanai said he discovered the sexual content in December while monitoring the judge’s Web site as part of his legal rift with the court. After downloading the files, Sanai said he began contacting reporters at various publications in January to bring attention to what he called widespread ethical problems on the 9th Circuit.

He provided a copy of the files to The Associated Press on Wednesday, which appeared to mirror the Times’ descriptions of videos and pictures on the Web site.

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