A closely watched obscenity trial in Los Angeles federal court was suspended Wednesday after the judge acknowledged maintaining his own publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.
Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, granted a 48-hour stay in the obscenity trial of a Hollywood adult filmmaker after the prosecutor requested time to explore “a potential conflict of interest concerning the court having a . . . sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial here.”
Define “similar.” Also according to the LA Dogtrainer:
Upcoming trial will see hours of hard-core fetish pornography
Ira Isaacs faces a trial on obscenity charges.
Ira Isaacs says his films, which feature bestiality and defecation, have artistic value. Federal prosecutors say they are criminally obscene. Hours of footage will help jurors decide who’s right.
That same story explains why Kozinski was presiding over the case:
Presiding over the trial will be Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Kozinski was assigned the case as part of a rotation in which he and other appeals court judges occasionally oversee criminal trials in addition to deciding appeals.
His involvement in the case may be a stroke of luck for Isaacs. That is because Kozinski is seen as a staunch defender of free speech. When he learned that there were filters banning pornography and other materials from computers in the appeals court’s Pasadena offices, he led a successful effort to have the filters removed.
“I did some rabble-rousing about it,” Kozinski said in a brief interview last week. He said he was made aware of the issue when a law clerk researching a case was banned from accessing a gay bookstore’s website.
“I didn’t think the bureaucrats in Washington should decide what the federal judiciary should have access to,” the judge said. “I thought that was incredibly arrogant for them to decide on their own.”
Further descriptions of Isaac’s “art”:
Ira Isaacs readily admits he produced and sold movies depicting bestiality and sexual activity involving feces and urine. The judge warned potential jurors that the hours of fetish videos included violence against women, and many of them said they don’t want to serve because watching would make them sick to their stomachs.
“It’s the most extreme material that’s ever been put on trial. I don’t know of anything more disgusting,” said Roger Jon Diamond — Isaacs’ own defense attorney.
However, what was on Kozinski’s computer?
Among the images on the site were a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal. He defended some of the adult content as “funny” but conceded that other postings were inappropriate.
If the “naked women painted to look like cows” is part of the set this image (mildly NSFW) came from, my opinion is “whoopee sh!t” And there’s a lot of difference between “a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal” (unless “cavorting” has taken on a entirely new meaning) and someone engaging in sex with one. I believe the Glitterati recently celebrated a documentary on that topic at the last Sundance film festival.
Personally, I wonder what’s on David Souter’s computer.
UPDATE: SayUncle says it much more succinctly.
UPDATE II: Above the Law has more, including this email from Judge Kozinski:
David: I can’t comment on the trial.
As for the other matter, the server was maintained by my son, Yale, for the entire family. Pictures, documents, music, audio and other items of personal and family interest are stored there so various family members can reach them from wherever they happen to be. Everyone in the family stores stuff there, and I had no idea what some of the stuff is or was — I was surprised that it was there. I assumed I must have put it there by accident, but when the story broke, Yale called and said he’s pretty sure he uploaded a bunch of it. I had no idea, but that sounds right, because I sure don’t remember putting some of that stuff there.
I consider the server a private storage device, not meant for public access. I’d have been more careful about its contents if I had known that others could access it.
UPDATE III Even more here. And I LOVE this photo:
As others elsewhere have noted, all of this stuff is of the “Have you seen THIS?!?!” email caliber, though I’d imagine some Catholics would be a wee bit perturbed by this shot. From this same site:
The judge, of course, is being attacked for actively curating and storing this material on a computer that, it is reasonable to assume, was accidentally exposed to public access. California Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose constituents include the world’s most prolific producers of R and X rated films and who couldn’t recognize the difference between a camel’s toe and a women’s crotch, finds the distinguished jurist’s behavior “inappropriate”. Others are asserting that his behavior violates copyright laws. We differ.
Not only is the context of the file storage acceptable “fair use”, but if the trial is about the definition of “criminally obscene”, we don’t believe the judge should be recused from the trial any more than a judge should be who isn’t aware of the popularity of such material. For example, should a judge who subscribes to the LA Times be necessarily recused from a trial involving a claim against a newspaper? Afterall(sic), a judge who is a warm-blooded male with a sense of humor, and perhaps prone to an occasional purient(sic) indulgence, like the rest of us makes him more likely to maintain impartiality over a matter involving community standards. Judge Kozinski is no less able to be objective on the application of community standards to an indecency determination for taking amusement in such images than is a judge who is unaware that such media routinely circulates in the community’s email boxes and web browsers.
On the other hand, the one problem we do have with the Kozinski(sic) is his court’s decision that the simple act of making copyright files available for downloading constitutes copyright infringement. He should now realize how easy it is for files to be placed in directories that unintentionally have the effect of making them “available for download” and that such availability alone should no more amount to infringement than his (or his son’s) file management discipline should amount to distributing pornography.
Kozinski has suspended the trial for 48 hours so that motions for him to recuse himself can be made and heard.
UPDATE – 6/13: Kozinski has recused himself and declared a mistrial according to USLaw.com:
With a one sentence explanation, one of the most respected judicial authorities on the First Amendment, Judge Alex Kozinski, removed himself from what will likely become a landmark obscenity case.
In light of the public controversy surrounding my involvement in this case, I have concluded that there is a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. I recuse myself from further participation in the case and will ask the chief judge of the district court to reassign it to another judge.
Trust me, you do NOT want to click on the images in that post…