WASHINGTON -- Opponents of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Wednesday unveiled a new line of attack -- questioning whether Kavanaugh, as a clerk to 9th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski in the early 1990s, knew about Kozinski's alleged sexual harassment of fellow clerks.
Kozinski abruptly retired in December last year after multiple women, including former clerks and a retired federal judge, accused him of abuse, including showing them pornography in his chambers, forcibly kissing them and inviting them to have sex. Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski from 1990 to 1991.
Ultraviolet, a liberal group that is part of the "#MeToo" movement working to expose and end sexual harassment, called Wednesday for the U.S. Senate to investigate what Kavanaugh knew about Kozinski's behavior.
"Judge Kozinski's office had a long history of being a toxic and dangerous environment for women," Karin Roland, chief campaigns officer for Ultraviolet, said in a statement. "The American public deserves to know what Kavanaugh saw and heard, and if he did witness or hear about any harassment, what he did or could have done to report it."
It is not clear if efforts to link Kavanaugh to Kozinski's behavior will gain traction. While women have come forward to report abuse by Kozinski that occurred as early as the mid-1980s, there have been no known reports of Kavanaugh being aware of such behavior, or it occurring while he worked for Kozinski.
Kavanaugh's critics, even before President Donald Trump nominated him Monday, circulated a six-page opposition research memo tying him to Kozinski. The memo, first reported by Politico, concluded it was virtually impossible for Kavanaugh to be unaware of Kozinski's behavior, although the memo cited no evidence that he did.
Raj Shah, the White House spokesman handling questions about Kavanaugh's nomination, did not immediately respond for comment.
Kavanaugh worked as a White House staff secretary for President George W. Bush before Bush nominated him for a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Previously, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and worked with independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr in his investigation of President Bill Clinton.
Before that, Kavanaugh clerked with Kozinski at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes the nine western states, including California and Washington.
Kozinski, appointed by Ronald Reagan to the 9th Circuit, served on the court from 1985 until 2017, and was known as a "feeder judge," sending nine of his clerks to work for Supreme Court justices between 2009 and 2013 alone. Kavanaugh was one of several Kozinski clerks he helped place with Justice Kennedy, one reason ambitious law school students competed hard to clerk for Kozinski.