June 13, 2008

Kozinski recuses himself.

In the obscenity trial.
"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."
And he's asked for an investigation of himself.

I read this all as taking a stand for free speech.

28 comments:

Revenant said...

On the one hand, I'm annoyed that he felt the need to declare a mistrial over this non-event.

On the other hand, anything that makes it harder for the government to prosecute people for obscenity is a good thing. Who knows, by the time they get their act together again there might be different Presidential priorities.

rhhardin said...

How is it taking any kind of stand for free speech.

Rather than for avoidance of unstoppable media events.

What would be wrong with telling the media to take their moron audience and f* off.

Honza said...

Degrading pictures of women painted as cows, a man cavorting with a donkey, the striptease of a transvestite . . . This is not about free speech, but the standards to which we should hold our federal judges -- "the most powerful judges in the world," as Kozinski once described his cadre of colleagues.

I'm glad we have a President who makes it a priority to enforce our nation's obscenity laws -- depictions of rape and abuse do nothing but degrade and scintillate the darkest angels of our natures.

It's not a joke that the judge overseeing one of these prosecutions himself thought it funny and merely trifling to have similarly degrading and despicable crap for his personal enjoyment.

Ann's comments are a reflection of Alexander Pope's apt lines regarding embracing that which was once abhorrent. For a person who proclaims she has avoided pornography up till now, her reaction was surprisingly embracing.

dmfoiemjsof said...

Dumb question: why was he, as an appellate judge, presiding over a trial in the first place?

Ann Althouse said...

Appellate judges can do some trials if they want. There is a program for that. Good idea, no?

honza: you're being silly, and your descriptions of the pictures/video prove you haven't looked at them (or are deliberately distorting). The man with the donkey wasn't "cavorting." Nor was there any striptease. But, hey, even if there was. Who cares if there is a striptease! It's an ordinary matter of people enjoying humor or sexuality. If you are too strait-laced to get it, you should be a little circumspect... because you should realize that you don't understand life all that well.

Revenant said...

It's not a joke that the judge overseeing one of these prosecutions himself thought it funny and merely trifling to have similarly degrading and despicable crap for his personal enjoyment.

Even if Kozinski's material was "degrading" -- which of course it was not -- possession of "degrading" material isn't against the law. Possession of "obscene" material is.

Saying that a man who looks at porn can't preside over an obscenity trial is like saying that a man who hunts can't preside over a murder trial.

Joe said...

I assume most the people who could take over in this trial have seen naked people. Probably had sex too. Maybe even made an "obscene" comment or two.

George said...

Integrity

1) Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility;

2) An unimpaired condition.

***

Dignity

1) The quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed;

2) High rank, office, or position.

***
Disgrace

1) To be a source of shame to "Your actions disgraced the family."

2) To cause to lose favor or standing.

Source: Merriam-Webster

Honza said...

Ann: I admit I haven't looked at the pictures, but have relied on their descriptions in the LATimes and other news sources.

I understand plenty well our interest in and need for sex; I happen to find pornography an unrealistic, unhealthy, cheap and ultmately degrading way to satisfy that interest and need.

The issue is that I hold our federal judges to higher standard; a judge who finds it funny to see women painted as farm animals in a sexual position does not instill confidence.

I have yet to accept the societal norm that it is okay and normal to enjoy, look at, and joke about pornography; much better to show some restraint and enjoy sex within the trusting confines of a relationship that does not have the burden of pornography's unrealistic expectations.

Revenant: bad analogy, and I understand that degrading pornography may not qualify as obscenity in your community -- with citizens like you I'm sure it doesn't. But Scalia does not darken the trade because he hunts; a judge who finds pleasure and humor in sexist pornograhic images does.

Revenant said...

Ann: I admit I haven't looked at the pictures, but have relied on their descriptions in the LATimes and other news sources.

I was at a friend's house the other day. He had a copy of this shocking book filled with content no decent person would want anything to do with -- incest, mass murder, even an attempted human sacrifice. The hero of the book condoned, even *ordered* most of those things. Worst of all, the book insisted that the hero was someone to be emulated and obeyed.

I think he called it "The Holy Bible". I hear it is pretty popular.

The moral of this story is that you can read a technically accurate description of something and still end up with entirely the wrong idea of what it was. Which is why you should probably stop criticizing Kozinski and talking about the "high standards" you hold judges to, because you haven't got the foggiest idea what the hell you're talking about. You talk about holding people to high standards, but you can't hold anyone to ANY standard if you can't be bothered to know what they've done.

The "man cavorting with a donkey", for example, is this video, which originally aired on broadcast TV. A guy stopped in a field to relieve himself and got attacked by an aroused donkey; the video is of him trying to simultaneously fend off the donkey, pull up his pants, and run away. Only an idiot or an LA Times reporter (but I repeat myself) would describe this as "cavorting". It is, however, pretty funny.

Revenant: bad analogy, and I understand that degrading pornography may not qualify as obscenity in your community -- with citizens like you I'm sure it doesn't.

By "like me" I assume you mean "Americans". Pictures of naked women painted like cows aren't considered legally obscene anywhere in America.

But Scalia does not darken the trade because he hunts; a judge who finds pleasure and humor in sexist pornograhic images does.

In your self-admittedly ignorant and uninformed opinion it might. Under the law, it does not.

UWS guy said...

One man's pornography is another man's Mohammed...

One more in the list of things that occur in nature that you're not allowed to look at.

Honza said...

I don't want to look at the pornographic images; and I don't have to in order to make my point. Forget about the donkey movie -- the other described images are enough.

It's not about what is lawfully proscribable, Revenant -- if you're going to engage in conversation, take time to understand the comments you're criticizing. It's that Kozinski's personal pleasures, which are now public, do not instill confidence in him as a federal judge, unless you likewise find pleasure and enjoyment in such activities. But even if a person does, I suspect he'd rather not know that his federal judges do as well.

We typically know the academic credentials and praiseworthy extracurricular pursuits of our federal judges -- we normally do not know of their pornographic obsessions. There's a reason for that.

KLDAVIS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KLDAVIS said...

Honza said...

I don't want to look at the pornographic images; and I don't have to in order to make my point. Forget about the donkey movie -- the other described images are enough.


So, you won't be happy until we debunk the LA Times descriptions one by one? Showing you the error of your ways will take entirely too long.

I've seen these supposed atrocities, and it's hard to conclude anything but that this was a modern-day Puritan lynching...I won't be a part of it.

As one of my favorite web comics (which you'll probably find entirely too naughty) explained today, I tend to save words like "appalling" for things like the Holocaust.

somefeller said...

And of course, Concerned Women for America, an influential religious right group, is calling for Kozinski's resignation. How charming. And predictable.

Hector Owen said...

Honza has got Potter Stewart beat — he knows porn without even seeing it!

Hector Owen said...

Now, why did I assume "Honza" was a he? Sorry about that. He or she is one up on Potter Stewart. There now, that's better.

Revenant said...

I don't want to look at the pornographic images; and I don't have to in order to make my point.

Only if your point is that you're ignorant.

matthew said...

It's that Kozinski's personal pleasures, which are now public, do not instill confidence in him as a federal judge

Maybe I'm missing something... I have no idea how having (for the sake of argument) lewd pictures on your computer translates into any aspect of the job description in "federal judge" that disparages the profession. Maybe, just maybe, it could affect his judgment in pornography criminal cases - but there's no indication he did anything illegal.

And we have other judges who "know porn" when they see it, which would presumably entail having looked at it in the past. In fact, as cases may turn on what 'porn' is, we should probably encourage federal judges to have some background in it.

This IS NOT ANYTHING like the past case of the judge who may have been actually distracted IN HIS JOB DUTIES by his own perversions.

http://www.northcountrygazette.org/articles/062106SexToys.html


I get it. You don't like anything about porn (probably not even the word itself) and that's a perfectly defensible position. But because the judge may have something you don't like doesn't have ANY bearing on fitness for his job.

Put another way, your personal morals (and mine as well), do not, should not, and fortunately do not, have any bearing on the interpretation of federal law.

George said...

Hypothetical: What if we learned that Judge X visited a strip-club (i.e. naked pole dancing) once a week. Even better, maybe he goes there two, three, or four times a week.

I'd say Judge X has a problem, even though what he's doing is perfectly legal. At the very least, his acts have caused damage to his integrity and dignity, personal attributes that are central to his job.

Zeb Quinn said...

We don't have to do a hypothetical. William O. Douglas was a bigtime conneseuer of strip clubs. In fact, his last wife worked at one just a few blocks from my house.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Any male over about the age of 25 who has a porn stash has a bad case of arrested development and juvenile fantasies.

Come to think of it, this might make him really outstanding judge material, given the current state of the legal profession.

And of course he has the right to do it, as long as he did not open it at any time on a computer owned by the government.

Revenant said...

I'd say Judge X has a problem, even though what he's doing is perfectly legal. At the very least, his acts have caused damage to his integrity and dignity, personal attributes that are central to his job.

That's because you think there's something wrong with going to a strip club.

Learning that he's a fundamentalist Christian would damage his integrity and dignity with atheists, learning that he's an atheist would damage his integrity with fundamentalists, learning that he's a creationist would damage his reputation among the scientifically literate... etc, etc, etc. In a society in which people are free to disagree, public servants will have traits that people find disagreeable. That's just part of living in a free society. Something which makes you suspect a person's integrity might make someone else more confident in it.

Revenant said...

Any male over about the age of 25 who has a porn stash has a bad case of arrested development and juvenile fantasies.

Something like ninety percent of men masturbate. Shockingly enough, they are quite often not thinking about their wives when they do so.

blake said...

I'm glad we have a President who makes it a priority to enforce our nation's obscenity laws -- depictions of rape and abuse do nothing but degrade and scintillate the darkest angels of our natures.

Well, and reduce rape rates by 85%.

OK, it's only a correlation, but if porn is "scintillates the darkest angels of our natures", why are sex crime down so much since 1970?

In order to argue that porn increases actual physical crimes, you have to argue that there's something else that's so drastically reducing them, that porn's effect is not just hidden but completely buried.

Smilin' Jack said...

I don't see why Kozinsky should recuse himself. He shouldn't have any difficulty applying Potter Stewart's objective and reliable criterion for obscenity: "I know it when I see it."

It's simple: when he sees it on his computer, it's not obscene; when he sees it on yours, it is. What could be fairer than that?

Revenant said...

In order to argue that porn increases actual physical crimes, you have to argue that there's something else that's so drastically reducing them, that porn's effect is not just hidden but completely buried.

I can only assume that the people who believe porn causes rape are people who refuse to, um, "take matters in hand" when aroused and without a willing partner. Because let's get real, here. After release, who feels like raping someone? Who feels like doing much of anything, for that matter? I can see how porn might cause rape if the people reading it had no outlet... but unless there are a bunch of armless porn fiends running around that isn't the case.

blake said...

Well, I'd go along with that, Rev, though I don't see how anyone ever feels like raping anyone. The coercion would have to be arousing unto itself in order to maintain the necessary blood flow while physically restraining someone (other extraordinary circumstances like restraints or external threat excluded) and that seems degrading beyond belief.

But obviously there are such people, and if they are being defused by porn, we have a lot to be grateful for.