Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s credibility and truthfulness has become central in the final stretch of his confirmation process. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a crucial swing vote, has said that if she believes the sexual assault allegations of his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, over the denials of Kavanaugh, she will vote against him.
Both Kavanaugh and Ford will — if Ford accepts the Senate Judiciary Committee’s invitation — testify under oath next week, and Kavanaugh’s confirmation may come down to who is more believable.
Kavanaugh, however, has a record of issuing categorical denials in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, such as his claim never to have exploited documents stolen from Senate Democrats. He has issued an equally categorical denial when it comes to having any knowledge about the behavior of his longtime friend and mentor, former 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.
Kozinski resigned in December 2017 after articles in the Washington Post exposed years of sexual harassment. Though Kavanaugh claims to have been “gut-punched” by the revelations of Kozinski’s behavior, the outlines of it have been public in various forms for decades.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on September 5 gave Kavanaugh the opportunity to respond to claims that he must have known about the allegations against Kozinski. Hatch asked Kavanaugh if he was on the “Easy Rider gag list,” a listserv of friends, colleagues, and journalists to whom Kozinski frequently distributed crude material. Kavanaugh told Hatch, “I don’t remember anything like that, Senator.”
Hatch pressed him: “Did you know anything about these allegations?” “Nothing.” “OK. Before they became public last year?” “No. … It was a gut punch for me.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, asked Kavanaugh the same questions later that day, describing the allegations against Kozinski as an “open secret.”
Hirono: “Are you telling us that you may have received a steady diet of what people on the list have described as ‘a lot of vulgar jokes, very dirty jokes,’ but you don’t remember it?”
Kavanaugh: “No, I don’t remember anything like that.”
Hirono: “Have you otherwise ever received sexually suggestive or explicit emails from Judge Kozinski even if you don’t remember whether you were on this gag list or not?”
Kavanaugh: “So Senator, let me start with, no woman should be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, and —”
Hirono: “Judge Kavanaugh, you already went through all of that. And I will get to your perspective about making sure that women in the judiciary do not get sexually harassed. I just want to ask you, during and after your clerkship with Judge Kozinski, did you ever witness or hear of allegations of any inappropriate behavior or conduct that could be described as sexual harassment by Judge Kozinski?”
Kavanaugh: “No, Senator. And I worked in Washington, D.C. There were 10 judges in the courthouse with him in Pasadena. Prominent federal judges in the courthouse with him. Worked side by side with him day after day while he was chief judge in the 9th Circuit.”
Hirono: “To be clear, while this kind of behavior on the part of Judge Kozinski was going on for 30 years — it was an open secret — you saw nothing, you heard nothing, and you obviously said nothing. Judge Kavanaugh, do you believe the women who recently came forward to accuse Judge Kozinski of this kind of behavior?”
Kavanaugh: “I have no reason not to believe them, Senator.”
Hirono: “This is why the Me Too movement is so important. Because often in these kinds of situations where there are power issues involved, as certainly there are between judges and clerks, that, often, you know, it’s an environment where people see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing. And that’s what we have to change.”
Kavanaugh: “I agree with you, Senator. I agree completely.”
Kozinski, according to the Washington Post, for years would sexually harass colleagues, force them to view pornography in his chambers, send it to them using federal servers, and lobby the court to stop monitoring internet activity in the judiciary. According to L. Ralph Mecham, former director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Kozinski disabled the software put in place by the United Judicial Conference and moved the porn-sharing to his personal website. He left the bench in disgrace — but with his pension still intact.
Attorney Cyrus Sanai, who first blew the whistle on Kozinski and has long tangled publicly with the judge, said earlier this week that federal court employees had information to share with the Judiciary Committee about what Kavanaugh knew about Kozinski, and would share under the right conditions.
Kavanaugh’s efforts to distance himself from Kozinski appear increasingly strained when lined up against a timeline of the pair’s professional lives.
A few years ago, in a light moment, Kozinski quipped that he was surprised he lasted as long as he did. “I made it by dint of age, years of service, and having deftly avoided impeachment,” he explained.
Kavanaugh and Kozinski: A History
Alex Kozinski clerks for 9th Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kennedy.
Kozinski is deputy legal counsel to President-elect Ronald Reagan. Kozinski also serves in the Office of the Special Counsel, where he faces scrutiny for allegedly helping to facilitate the firing of Jack Spadaro, a Department of Interior whistleblower.
Kozinski is assistant White House counsel.
Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaults Christine Blasey Ford in the Maryland suburbs. Ford told the Washington Post she believed it took place in 1982.
August 20, 1982
Senate confirms Kozinski as chief judge of U.S. Claims Court.
October 1, 1982
Kozinski’s term begins.
Kavanaugh graduates from Georgetown Prep.
Kozinski ends his tenure as chief judge of U.S. Claims Court.
Reagan nominates Kozinski to the 9th Circuit. After approving his nomination, the Judiciary Committee takes the unusual step of re-opening the hearing, after former Kozinski employees charge Kozinski with “sadistic” and “abusive” behavior. Nevertheless, the Senate confirms Kozinski to the 9th Circuit.
Kavanaugh graduates from Yale College.
Kavanaugh graduates from Yale Law School.
Kavanaugh clerks for 3rd Circuit Judge Walter Stapleton.
Kavanaugh clerks for Kozinski in the 9th Circuit.
Kavanaugh is an attorney in the Office of the Solicitor General.
Kavanaugh, on the recommendation of Kozinski, clerks for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kavanaugh serves as associate counsel for Ken Starr.
Kavanaugh becomes partner at Kirkland & Ellis, where he remains until 2001. He works again with Starr in 1998.
Judicial Council adopts a policy streamlining judiciary internet access via computers connected to the judiciary’s internal data communications network through three national gateway connections maintained at the 9th and 5th Circuits and the Administrative Office, respectively.
Judiciary obtains knowledge of employees using federal computers and servers to access pornography, per a memo, “Internet Access to Pornographic Material,” authored by Gregory Walters to the Judicial Council on April 23.
September 4, 2001
Kozinski writes an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing against the proposed monitoring of internet use by judiciary employees.
Kavanaugh is associate counsel and then senior associate counsel to President George W. Bush.
July 2003-May 2006
Kavanaugh is assistant, and then staff secretary to the president.
Heidi Bond clerks for Kozinski.
Bush nominates Kavanaugh to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
May 6, 2006
Kozinski introduces Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing: “I give Brett Kavanaugh my highest recommendation. I gave him my highest recommendation when he applied to Justice Kennedy, my own mentor. And I continue to give him the highest recommendations.”
May 26, 2006
After a drawn-out, three-year battle, Senate confirms Kavanaugh to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
June 11, 2008
Scott Glover reports in the Los Angeles Times the existence of Kozinski’s website, that it hosts porn, and that he sends sexually oriented material on his listserv.
June 12, 2008
Kozinski calls for the 9th Circuit Judicial Council to initiate proceedings to investigate allegations raised by Glover’s article.
June 16, 2008
Kozinski’s misconduct case transferred to the 3rd Circuit.
December 8, 2008
Glover reports in the LA Times on the “Easy Rider gag list.”
June 5, 2009
The Judicial Council of the 3rd Circuit delivers an opinion on Kozinski’s judicial misconduct proceedings without further sanctions, stating that Kozinski’s “acknowledgement of responsibility together with other corrective action, his apology, our admonishment, combined with public dissemination of this opinion, properly conclude this proceeding.”
December 5, 2014
Kozinski steps down as chief judge of the 9th Circuit, succeeded by Judge Sidney R. Thomas. Kozinski remains on the 9th Circuit bench. He jokes, “I have been very fortunate and privileged to be Chief Judge of this great institution. Not everybody gets to serve, as Judge [Michael Daly] Hawkins explained. I made it by dint of age, years of service, and having deftly avoided impeachment” at the “Passing of the Gavel” ceremony at the 9th Circuit courthouse in San Francisco.
March 30, 2015
Kavanaugh, in an address titled “The Judge as Umpire” at Catholic University of America’s Columbus Law School, says: “Fortunately we had a good saying that we’ve held firm to to this day, as the dean was reminding me before the talk, which is ‘What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.’ That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.”
November 14, 2015
Kozinski and Kavanaugh sit side by side at a Federalist Society panel. Kavanaugh praises a 1991 article, “Confessions of a Bad Apple,” authored by Kozinski. In response to an audience question asking panelists to complete the sentence “being a judge means blank,” Kozinski replies, “Never having to say you’re sorry.”
November 17, 2017
Trump White House issues initial list of potential Supreme Court nominees, which includes Kavanaugh.
December 8, 2017
Matt Zapotosky publishes in the Washington Post allegations by Heidi Bond, Emily Murphy, and four other former clerks and externs of Kozinski’s inappropriate sexual conduct and misconduct, including — but not limited to — asking them to view porn in his chambers.
December 14, 2017
Thomas, the 9th Circuit chief judge, launches an investigation into Kozinski.
December 15, 2017
Zapotosky publishes in the Washington Post allegations by nine more women of Kozinski’s sexual comments and inappropriate conduct. Four of the women allege inappropriate touching. Maura Dolan reports in the LA Times that at least two of Kozinski’s clerks have resigned.
December 18, 2017
Following his resignation, Kozinski steps down from the 9th Circuit.
June 27, 2018
Anthony Kennedy announces retirement from the Supreme Court, recommending Kavanaugh as his replacement.
July 3-5, 2018
The media reports that President Donald Trump has narrowed his short list of potential Supreme Court nominees to three, including Kavanaugh
July 6, 2018
Christine Blasey Ford, yet to go public, writes a letter to Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. Ford also anonymously contacts the Washington Post and tells friends that she plans to come forward.
July 9, 2018
Trump nominates Kavanaugh.
July 30, 2018
Ford writes to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
August 2, 2018
Leah Litman, Emily Murphy, and Katherine H. Ku, all of whom have publicly accused Kozinski of misconduct, publish a column in the New York Times outlining the gutting of Kozinski’s judicial misconduct proceedings following his retirement.
September 4-6, 2018
Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee begins, during which he is asked about Kozinski.
September 12, 2018
Ryan Grim reports in The Intercept that Feinstein is withholding a letter from fellow Democrats that describes an incident in high school between Kavanaugh and an unidentified woman.
September 14, 2018
Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer publish Ford’s allegations of Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct in the New Yorker, though Ford declined to comment or be named in the story. Former Kozinski clerk Heidi Bond writes an op-ed in Slate challenging Kavanaugh’s assertions that he was unaware of Kozinski’s behavior.
September 16, 2018
Christine Blasey Ford comes forward.
September 17, 2018
Cyrus Sanai makes public a letter claiming that federal court employees with information on Kozinski and Kavanaugh are willing to speak to the committee.