Nude photos, lewd texts: Trump-appointed judge forced to resign after sexual misconduct investigation

Alaska justice Joshua Kindred steps down after investigation finds he carried on an inappropriate relationship with a law clerk, attempted to conceal it, and made lewd comments to colleagues

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 09 July 2024 20:24
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Joshua Kindred speaks during a judicial nomination hearing at the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary in Washington, DC on December 4, 2019.
Joshua Kindred speaks during a judicial nomination hearing at the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary in Washington, DC on December 4, 2019. (US Senate Committee on the Judiciary/Reuters)

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Joshua Kindred, a federal judge in Alaska nominated to the bench by former President Donald Trump, has resigned after an investigation into misconduct allegations against him found that he had an inappropriate relationship with a female law clerk, lied to investigators, and created a hostile environment for staff by making graphic sexual remarks in the workplace.

The US district judge, 46, was asked to resign voluntarily by the Judicial Council of the 9th Circuit in May and did so on July 3, submitting a formal letter of resignation to Trump’s White House successor Joe Biden last week.

The allegations against Kindred date back to 2022 and were compiled in a 32-page court order by a special committee appointed to investigate them by Chief Circuit Judge Mary Murguia.

The order was made available publicly on Monday as Kindred’s resignation came into effect and accuses the justice of carrying on an “inappropriately sexualized relationship” with the unnamed clerk that continued into her time as an assistant US attorney.

In one incident from October 2022, Kindred is alleged to have invited her out for drinks, kissed her and grabbed her rear shortly before she ended her tenure working in his office.

In a second incident, the justice is accused of groping the clerk and performing oral sex on her at an associate’s apartment.

Investigators also determined that Kindred received “nude photographs” from another more senior federal prosecutor and swapped “flirtatious” text messages with a third local attorney, the order said.

The report also cites investigators’ interviews with clerks and judiciary employees who worked for Kindred, as well as text messages in which he talked about his dating life and made disparaging remarks about colleagues.

In addition to the sexual misconduct allegations, the order reports that Kindred “had no hesitation in using language that was inappropriate in a professional setting, such as encouraging rating people based on ‘f***ability’, stating that he was not ‘hoe-ignorant’, or telling stories about ‘giving b*** jobs in a hot tub.’

It continues: “In the few instances where clerks came to Judge Kindred to discuss his inappropriate behavior, they were belittled or ostracized, and, in one instance, a clerk left the clerkship.”

The investigators add that Kindred made false statements during their inquiries and otherwise “obstructed, influenced and impeded” their proceedings.

“I think my great sin here was the fact that during this period of time I treated my law clerks as friends rather than employees,” the justice told them at one hearing, downplaying the seriousness of the accusations against him.

“We conclude that Judge Kindred’s misconduct was pervasive and abusive, constituted sexual harassment, and fostered a hostile work environment that took a personal and professional toll on multiple clerks,” the council wrote.

“Judge Kindred’s conduct was not civil, dignified, or respectful — attributes that we expect from a federal judge — and his interactions with his law clerks were abusive, oppressive, and inappropriate.”

Kindred submitted his own nine-page response to the investigation in which he conceded that he had “failed to exercise appropriate boundaries and crossed lines I should not have crossed” but added that his relationship with the clerk “was not something that was born out of something sinister.”

He has since declined requests for comment.

Chief Circuit Judge Murguia said in a statement of her own on Monday that the judiciary was entrusted to self-govern and that federal judges must be held to “the highest standards of integrity and impartiality.”

”In all respects, this was a serious and sensitive matter,” she said. “I thank the witnesses who provided information, understanding fully how difficult that may have been. In my role as chief, I will continue to ensure that our judges are held to the highest standards.”

Kindred was confirmed by the Senate in February 2020 in a 54-41 vote mostly along party lines, making him one of the youngest to receive the life-time honour.

Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski wrote on X on Monday that his resignation was “more than appropriate” and pledged she would be “working quickly to advance a replacement nominee for consideration.”

Another GOP state senator, Dan Sullivan, said in a statement: “Judge Kindred’s misconduct revealed in the recent investigation is extremely disappointing.

“I will continue to work with the Alaska Federal Judicial Council for appointment of federal judges who understand Alaska’s unique role in our federal system.

“This is crucially important for our state.”

Kindred’s resignation leaves Chief Judge Sharon Gleason as the one active district court judge working in Alaska, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Judge Gleason is expected to pick up the majority of her former colleague’s 77 open criminal cases and 148 open civil cases.

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