The LA Times' abuse of Judge Alex Kozinski
But what has come out since is more troubling than the original accusations. Not only did the Los Angeles Times make a mountain out of a molehill, wrongly characterizing a popular and much-viewed piece of bathroom humor (literally) as bestiality, but it failed to reveal that the source of the story was an angry litigant, and that he had made them aware of it months earlier. Consider the source, my mother always used to say, and she didn’t run a newspaper. This week, Judge Kozinski’s wife of thirty years wrote an email to a popular local blogger, Patterico.com, defending her husband and, in the course of her defense, calling into question the fairness of the Los Angeles Times.
It has now been confirmed (by the man himself) that the source for the Los Angeles Times story, not disclosed in the story itself, was Cyrus Sanai, a local lawyer whose mother was party to a very contentious divorce in the state courts of Washington, which her son believes was improperly handled by those courts; he has since begun a crusade to attack what he sees as the corruption of the Washington state judiciary.
When he failed in his efforts to reverse the judgment in the state courts, he initiated a federal lawsuit, which resulted in an order from Judge Thomas Zilly enjoining future filings by Sanai: “Plaintiffs’ conduct in this litigation,” Judge Zilly found, “has been an indescribable abuse of the legal process, unlike anything this Judge has experienced in more than 17 years on the bench and 26 years in private practice: outrageous, disrespectful, and in bad faith.” The Ninth Circuit, in a decision in which Judge Kozinski did not participate, upheld the dismissal of Sanai’s complaint.
So why is Sanai out to get Kozinski? Because the Judge wrote a column for a San Francisco newspaper defending the panel’s decision. Not only did the Los Angeles Times fail to disclose that the source of its information about the Judge’s home server was a much criticized disgruntled litigant, but it apparently sat on the story for months, timing its publication to the opening statements in the obscenity case. If it was a story, it should have been a story three months ago. If it wasn’t news, which is certainly my view, the obscenity case didn’t make it news. And if you were going to wait, why wait until the jury had already been selected, with the result that everyone’s time was completely wasted?
Mr. Sanai has now responded to the criticism, but in the process, raised further questions about the Los Angeles Times’ reporting. He admits that he was the source of the story, and makes clear that it was some months ago that he accessed the Judge’s website, and provided information to the local paper of record. What’s worse, he himself says that his criticism of Judge Kozinski is part of a broader “litigation strategy” to address his complaints about the adjudication of his parents’ divorce, and that he himself didn’t really take issue with the pornography as much as he did the fact that the Judge’s column defending his colleagues was also on the server (Mr. Sanai also claims that there were mp3 files which the Judge was sharing in violation of copyright laws, though no one else has ever confirmed this).
Would the Los Angeles Times have run a similar story if it found pictures of naked cows, or women, on the home server of the liberal Judge Reinhardt?
I have seen enough of liberal politicians treated badly by the supposed liberal media to question the willingness of conservatives to ascribe ideological bias to the media, but in this case, one has to wonder. Federal judges cannot be blamed, however, if the lesson they take from this episode is that no good deed goes unpunished. Judge Kozinski’s “sin,” in the eyes of the man who attacked him, was not his taste in humor but his willingness to speak out publicly about legal issues, in this case, the lawsuit brought by Mr. Sanai, and the abuse of process it involved.
That willingness is precisely what makes Judge Kozinski a unique treasure in the federal judiciary. Instead of encouraging others to do the same, which is what the so-called liberal media should be doing it, the sloppy if not vicious reporting of the Los Angeles Times is sure to encourage just the opposite. The first amendment is not well served. I can only hope that Judge Kozinski doesn’t decide to take a pass on the Federation debate, and others like it, next year as a result.