No reporter likes to be sucked into a story she's covering. But when a Washington Post article late last year quoted two law clerks by name who said that Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals had shown them pornography in his chambers, while four other unnamed women described other inappropriate behavior by the judge, Dahlia Lithwick decided to speak up. A legal writer who covers the Supreme Court for Slate, Lithwick described her own uncomfortable run-ins with Kozinski, whom she'd known since her days clerking for another judge. Moment opinion editor Amy E. Schwartz talks to Lithwick about the legal future of the #MeToo movement and how the recent retirement of the high-profile Kozinski could lead to real change.
What made you come forward with your own interactions with Kozinski?
I certainly didn't expect to become part of the story. I probably wouldn't have come forward if [Kozinski] had not dismissed and diminished Heidi Bond and the other accusers in the first Washington Post piece. She was one of the two women named in that first story, she and Emily Murphy. When the Los Angeles Times asked him for comment, he was quoted as saying, "If this is all they are able to dredge up after 35 years, I am not too worried." Heidi Bond, who went on to be a Supreme Court clerk and issued a statement describing serious suffering and emotional pain, has left the law and is now a successful writer of romance novels. He said something about how one of her books contained "very torrid sex." I just thought, "He is not going to slut-shame Heidi Bond." This just seemed like a classic case of someone all but asking for more people to come forward.
Was it a difficult decision?
I talked to my husband, who has known about these incidents for 16 years, and my co-clerks, who remembered things happening at the time. I looked at old texts I had sent. I agonized over the weekend, wrote the piece, then sat on it for a couple of days, and in the interim a lot of people were in touch with me saying they also had stories to share. As a journalist, you never want to be [part of] the story. But I felt I had at least enough reputational credibility that nobody was going to slut-shame me, and if I could give that to Heidi and Emily, I was going to. And I sort of felt that 1m lo akhshav, eimatai? If not now, when?
Did you expect Kozinski to retire?
If you'd asked me that morning, I'd have said he was never going to step down. But part of the...