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Nine more women say judge subjected them to inappropriate behavior

Nine more women say that Alex Kozinski - a high-profile judge who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit - subjected them to sexual comments or other conduct, including four who say he touched them inappropriately.

Judge Alex Kozinski in a July 24, 2014, file photo.
Judge Alex Kozinski in a July 24, 2014, file photo.Read moreDAVID AKE / AP, File

Nine more women say that Alex Kozinski – a high-profile judge who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit – subjected them to sexual comments or other conduct, including four who say he touched them inappropriately.

Kozinski, known for his libertarian views and colorful written opinions, already had been accused of subjecting several women to a range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments, and the circuit's chief judge on Thursday took the first step in launching an investigation into his behavior. The matter was assigned Friday to the 2nd Circuit judicial council.

The new allegations – which span decades and include not just those who worked for Kozinski but those who encountered him at events – bring the total number of women accusing the judge of inappropriate behavior to at least 15.

One recent law student at the University of Montana said that Kozinski, at a 2016 reception, pressed his finger into the side of her breast, which was covered by her clothes, and moved it with some "deliberateness" to the center, purporting to be pushing aside her lapel to fully see her name tag.

Another lawyer said Kozinski approached her when she was alone in a room at a legal community event around 2008 in downtown Los Angeles and – with no warning – gave her a bear hug and kissed her on the lips.

A University of California at Irvine law professor said Kozinski pinched her at a dinner this year, and he also joked that he had just had sex with his wife and she or others at the table would be "happy to know it still works."

A former U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge said Kozinski grabbed and squeezed each of her breasts as the two drove back from an event in Baltimore in the mid-1980s, after she had told him she did not want to stop at a motel and have sex.

The Washington Post reported last week that six women – all former clerks or more junior staff members known as externs in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit – alleged Kozinski had subjected them to inappropriate sexual conduct or comments, including two who said the judge showed them porn in his chambers.

Soon after that account became public, two others made allegations of impropriety in published, firsthand accounts that included their names. Dahlia Lithwick, who clerked for another judge in the 9th Circuit in the mid-1990s, wrote in Slate about how Kozinski, upon learning she was in a hotel room, had asked her what she was wearing. Nancy Rapoport, special counsel to the president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas – wrote in a personal blog post how the judge had invited her to drinks during her clerkship for another 9th Circuit judge and remarked: "What do single girls in San Francisco do for sex?"

Seven more women have since described their experiences to The Washington Post, three of them in on-the-record interviews.

In a statement read by one of his lawyers, Susan Estrich of the firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, Kozinski said: "Many of the things that are being said about me are simply not true, but I deeply regret that my unusual sense of humor caused offense or made anyone uncomfortable."

After The Post published its first story, Kozinski told the Los Angeles Times, "If this is all they are able to dredge up after 35 years, I am not too worried."

The review of possible misconduct that Kozinski now faces could lead to his being reprimanded, asked to retire or blocked from taking new cases for a period of time. On Thursday, Assistant Circuit Executive David Madden said in a statement "one or more" of Kozinski's clerks had resigned. The reason was unclear.

A 33-year-old woman said that when she was a student at the University of Montana Law School in 2016, Kozinski came to speak at an event. She said she encountered Kozinski at a reception afterward, and Kozinski – in an apparent attempt to see her name tag, which was partially obscured by her lapel – "very deliberately put his finger on the other side of my breast, and moved it, with some pressure" toward the center.

"It was shocking to me," the woman said, adding: "I thought it was wrong. I thought it was inappropriate, and it felt extremely entitled."

Four of the woman's friends, two men and two women, said she told them about what had happened soon after the incident. One friend, Kathryn Ore, 31, then a fellow Montana student who was also at the event, said Kozinski "spent the whole time staring at my breasts" – for likely a minute or two – during a conversation they had.

"It was long enough and the context was weird enough that it kind of threw me," Ore said, adding that, while it was possible his gaze meant something else, "I don't think I misinterpreted."

Leah Litman, 33, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, said she, similarly, encountered Kozinski when they appeared together on a panel at her school in July to discuss Supreme Court issues. Litman said that at a dinner at the Italian restaurant Canaletto the night before their panel, Kozinski talked of having just had sex and pinched her side and her leg, just above the knee, with his thumb and middle finger. She said he also tried to feed her with a utensil.

"I felt uncomfortable and just wanted to leave," Litman said.

Rick Hasen, a University of California at Irvine professor who was at the dinner, said he recalled Kozinski making a comment similar to what Litman described, and the experience was "surreal." He said he would not have been able to see any touching of Litman's leg or side.

Three friends also confirmed that Litman had previously told them about various parts of the interaction not long after it occurred, and Litman provided screenshots of text messages exchanges with two of them. In one exchange, she indicated she was touched repeatedly, remarking, "It was gross." The friend who received that message, University of Michigan Law professor Gil Seinfeld, confirmed the texts were authentic and that he and Litman had discussed Kozinski touching her.

Christine O.C. Miller, 73, a retired U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge, said that around early 1986 – shortly after Kozinski was appointed to his seat in the 9th Circuit – he invited her to attend a legal community function in the Baltimore area.

As the two drove back together, Miller said, Kozinski asked if she wanted to stop at a motel and have sex.

Miller, then in her early 40s and married, said she had considered Kozinski, who had served as chief of the Claims Court, "an ally and a professional friend" but harbored no romantic feelings for him.

"I told him, no, I wasn't interested, and didn't want to be involved in anything like that," she said. Kozinski, she said, persisted.

"He said if you won't sleep with me, I want to touch you, and then he reached over, and – this was the most antiseptic – he grabbed each of my breasts and squeezed them," Miller said. She said she stared straight ahead, and he soon dropped her off at her home.

Miller said she told a friend and her husband at the time – both of whom are now deceased. Her current husband, Dennis Miller, said that when he started dating Miller decades ago, she also told him of an incident in which Kozinski "tried to grope her."

Many of Kozinski's accusers have talked only on the condition that their names and other identifying information not be published, out of fear that he might retaliate against them or the institutions for which they work.

One lawyer said that Kozinski approached her when she was alone in a room at a legal community function in downtown Los Angeles in 2008 and planted a kiss on her lips. The woman was then in her 50s and said she was hardly even an acquaintance of Kozinski.

"It was really disgusting," the woman said. "It would have been disgusting if I were young, but it was particularly gross and unwelcome."

The woman's husband confirmed his wife had told him about the episode and they felt they were unable to do anything – given Kozinski's position.

A former Kozinski clerk said Kozinski, in his chambers, showed her an "open-legged image of a male figure that was naked," although it did not have the "intent" of typical porn. Still, the former clerk said she was startled and soon went to talk to another 9th Circuit clerk about what had happened.

"I was pretty shaken about it," the former clerk said. The other former clerk confirmed their conversation.

The former Kozinski clerk, who is the third to have described the judge showing her an explicit image in chambers, said the judge must have seen the dismay on her face, because he soon came to her to apologize and ask if she was okay.

"I said I was OK, but that was not the kind of thing I wanted to be exposed to, and he never showed me anything like that again," the former clerk said.

A former 9th Circuit clerk said that at a dinner with other clerks, Kozinski brought up a movie that contained a topless woman, talking about her "voluptuous" breasts. The woman, who declined to be identified, said she made a face to signal her disbelief at what he was saying, and Kozinski turned to her and said something like, "What? I'm a man." Another person who was at the table said he recalled the dinner and that he apologized to the clerk afterwards, as he had brought her to Kozinski's table.

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The Washington Post's Julie Tate contributed to this report.