By Kathleen Gilbert

LOS ANGELES, California, July 8, 2009 ( - Peers have admonished and cleared Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for showcasing images of bestiality and other sexually explicit material on his personal website.

The images were discovered last year as Kozinski presided over an obscenity trial, from which the judge recused himself after the prosecutor in the case petitioned for time to investigate "a potential conflict of interest concerning the court having a ... sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial here."

Kozinski was found to have published on his site images of a half-naked man "cavorting" with a sexually aroused farm animal, naked women painted as cows, and other extremely graphic material including images of masturbation and public sex. 

In a June 2008 interview, Kozinski indicated that he did not consider the images obscene, and claimed he did not know the website's material could be accessed by the public.

"Is it prurient? I don't know what to tell you," Kozinski told the Los Angeles Times. "I think it's odd and interesting. It's part of life."

A panel of Third Circuit judges asked to investigate the complaint settled upon a public admonishment as sufficient disciplinary action, together with Kozinski's previous apology and his removal of the offensive material.

"His conduct exhibit(ed) poor judgment," wrote Chief 3rd U.S. Circuit Judge Anthony J. Scirica. "Moreover, once the Judge became aware in 2007 that offensive material could be accessed by members of the public, his inattention to the need for prompt corrective action amounted to a disregard of a serious risk of public embarrassment."

The panel called Kozinski "careless" and "judicially imprudent" in possessing and failing to safeguard "his sphere of privacy."

Kozinski, in an email to the Wall Street Journal, said that he was "pleased" by the unanimous decision, and claimed the panel vindicated his contention that the files were not meant to be public.

The 9th Circuit Court, where Kozinski sits as Chief Justice, is believed to be one of the most activist - and overturned - appeals courts in the country. 

Many of America's most controversial rulings against public prayer and traditional marriage have been issued from the 9th Circuit bench: in March 2007 it ruled that municipal employers can censor the terms "natural family," "marriage" and "family values" as hate speech.  In 2002, the court held it was unconstitutional to have school children voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Kozinski also made the news earlier this year when he granted benefits to the same-sex "spouse" of a staff attorney, a decision that critics said illegally flouted the Defense of Marriage Act.

See related coverage:

Homosexual and Abortion Activist Judge Caught with Bestiality on Website  

CA Judge Rules Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional 

California College Bans Pledge of Allegiance After Atheist Complains 

US Court Rules it's OK to Censor the Terms 'Natural Family,' 'Marriage' and 'Family Values'