On the gag list, Kozinski periodically distributed jokes to a group of friends and associates, including his law clerks, colleagues on the federal bench, prominent attorneys and journalists. The jokes he sent ranged from silly to politically oriented to raunchy....Patterico is not amused: Who cares what humor someone sends around to a willing group of friends? "To some, jokes like this are funny. To others, they’re annoying and tasteless... [I]t’s just not something that merits coverage in a newspaper," he says.
Do Kozinski's actions indicate a lack of judgment or are they merely the harmless expression of a free-spirited man who happens to be a highly regarded judge?
But wait. If the email went around to a lot of judges and it is truly offensive, I care! What if most or all of the recipients were men and much of the humor was demeaning to women? That would matter. What if it was full of racial and religious stereotypes? That would matter. You know people by what they think is funny. If there is insight to be had into the minds of judges, I want it! These people are trusted with immense power, and the federal judges have life tenure. Don't coddle them.
Now, let's go back to Glover's article and see whether he's found the kind of humor that I say matters:
The Times was given 13 jokes by three sources that were circulated on the gag list between 2003 and 2008.Does this rise to the level that I've said matters? No.
One joke sent last spring poked fun at the Taliban, stating, "You may be a Taliban if ..." any of the following 12 statements are true. Among the statements: "You own a $3,000 machine gun and $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can't afford shoes" and "You wipe your butt with your bare left hand, but consider bacon 'unclean.' "...
The most graphic joke was set up as a three-page letter ostensibly written by a man to his estranged wife. The man sarcastically tells his wife that he still loves and misses her while at the same time detailing his recent sexual escapades with a young student, a single mother and his wife's younger sister. The single mom, the man says, acts like "a real woman . . . [who is] not hung up about God and her career and whether the kids can hear us."
But does that mean that the L.A. Times was wrong to publish this article? I'd say no to that too. I don't think it's important to publish this article. If federal judges were circulating racist jokes, it would be wrong to suppress it to protect these elite and insulated individuals. But that doesn't mean that it's wrong to share this insight into judicial minds. There was no prying into their private lives, no stalking or trickery.
Patterico places great emphasis on the fact that list membership was voluntary. There are 2 reasons why this doesn't make it all okay. The first I've already stated. The minds of judges affect the public, so it's good to have evidence of what those minds are really like. Just as I want news reports of things politicians accidentally say into a live microphone when they think they are speaking privately, I want to know what judges find funny when they talk -- or email -- amongst themselves.
The second reason appears in Glover's article:
Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School and former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, was skeptical that those who found jokes on the list offensive would necessarily complain, given Kozinski's commanding stature in the legal community.It's just too hard to say no and, having said yes, to say take me off your list.
"If you're ambitious, he's the last person you want to offend," she said.
And, by the way, didn't sending jokes around to all your friends become completely uncool more than a decade ago? Why didn't Kozinski realize he was spamming everybody?