Stagliano, McDonald Discuss Kozinski 'Kerfuffle'

Tod Hunter
LOS ANGELES — In the ongoing "Dust-Up" between adult producer John Stagliano and Pepperdine law professor Barry McDonald in the Los Angeles Times' Opinion section, the topic Tuesday involved what the Times called the "kerfuffle" over Judge Alex Kozinski, his website, his recusal from the Ira Isaacs obscenity case, and what that might suggest about legal objectivity and popular ideas about porn.

In his remarks, Stagliano asked "What makes porn uniquely unacceptable?" Framing the question as a difference between those who accept pornography and those who disdain it, Stagliano said, "It would have been so refreshing if Kozinski had said, 'Yeah, I like to look at a racy pictures sometimes; so what? Mind your own business.' But that would be asking too much of a public figure."

Stagliano continued by pointing out that public opinion turned against Kozinski as soon as it was known that he "[had] any interest in this vile thing known as porn" and asked rhetorically if a judge who raced cars as a hobby could serve in traffic court.

McDonald followed Stagliano's remarks by observing "when something happens that would give a person sufficient reason to question the impartiality of a judge in a case, that judge is obligated to recuse herself or himself. This standard not only looks to whether the judge would actually be biased in a case but also whether an incident might create an appearance of bias to a reasonable person regardless of whether or not the judge was actually biased."

Praising Kozinski for his recusal, McDonald cited Kozinski's "long, distinguished career [as a] very able jurist" and observes that because Kozinski could be perceived to have prejudice in an obscenity case, he did the right thing to recuse himself.

"Thus — and I'm sorry to say, John — all of your musings regarding the sexual rights of public officials are largely irrelevant to the recusal question," McDonald wrote.

McDonald followed that the problem of obscenity enforcement lies with Supreme Court standards that posit "pornography so lewd and offensive that it is obscene deserves no 1st Amendment protection," suggesting that the problem with judicial objectivity about porn may be based on such Supreme Court rulings.

The series, which will continue through Thursday, can be read on the Los Angeles Times website.