Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Joshua Kindred during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. (Screenshot from Senate Judiciary Committee video)

Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Joshua Kindred during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. (Screenshot from Senate Judiciary Committee video)

Federal judge Joshua Kindred resigns after reprimand for judicial misconduct involving law clerks

Trump appointee, 46, created hostile work environment, had “inappropriately sexualized relationship.”

This is a developing story.

Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Joshua Kindred, who resigned Monday following a sudden announcement of his intent to do so last week, has been “publicly reprimanded and admonished” for judicial misconduct “by creating a hostile work environment for his law clerks and by having an inappropriately sexualized relationship with one of his law clerks,” according to documents made public Monday by the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit.

Kindred, 46, was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2019 and confirmed in 2020 to the lifetime position. Resignations by such judges are rare — especially well before retirement age — and a one-sentence letter Kindred submitted to President Joe Biden last Wednesday prompted widespread speculation about Kindred’s reasons and whether legal action had been taken against him.

An order issued by the Judicial Council detailing the case describes his behavior in graphically explicit terms (expletives noted in parentheses are substitutes by the Empire).

“Judge Kindred appeared to have no filter as to the topics he would discuss with the clerks,” the order states. “He discussed his past dating life, his romantic preferences, his sex life, the law clerks’ boyfriends and dating lives, his divorce, his interest in and communications with potential romantic or sexual partners, and his disparaging opinions of his colleagues. He also made disparaging comments about public and political figures.”

“He also had no hesitation in using language that was inappropriate in a professional setting, such as encouraging rating people based on ‘(expletive)ability,’ stating that he was not ‘hoe-ignorant,’ or telling stories about ‘giving blow jobs in a hot tub.’ 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 order also details a female clerk’s allegations of multiple unwanted and/or forced sexual advances and contact by Kindred, which the Judicial Council deemed credible.

The report states he exchanged 278 pages of text messages with her — most not related to official duties — and shortly after her clerkship ended in the fall of 2022 took her for drinks, then kissed and groped her in his chambers. During a subsequent incident shortly afterward he coaxed the former clerk into an apartment he was moving into and performed oral sex on her.

“I just remember thinking like there’s nothing I can do about this, like this is about to happen,” the former clerk told investigators. During a later encounter, according to the report, the clerk said Kindred told her to “keep your head down and shut the (expletive) up,” and he “joked that he could make her life miserable if she said anything.”

A press release issued Monday by the Judicial Council states on May 23 it “requested that Judge Kindred voluntarily resign and certified the matter to the Judicial Conference of the United States to consider impeachment.” Although Kindred has resigned, the Judicial Conference will continue to consider the matter, including possible impeachment.

“The Judiciary is entrusted to self-govern and, in doing so, must hold its federal judges to the highest standards of integrity and impartiality,” Chief Judge Murguia said in a prepared statement. “We take judicial misconduct complaints seriously. When allegations arise, the Judiciary conducts a fair and thorough investigation that focuses on promoting a civil and respectful workplace, free of discrimination and harassment, and maintaining the integrity of the Judiciary.

“The process seeks to preserve the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts. In all respects, this was a serious and sensitive matter. 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.”

Attempts Monday to reach Kindred for comment were not immediately successful.

Kindred was a former state prosecutor from 2008 to 2013, an attorney for the Alaska Oil and Gas Association from 2013 to 2018, and regional solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Alaska Region from 2018 until his appointment to the federal bench became official. He was nominated for the position by Trump in October of 2019, and both of Alaska’s U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, supported the nomination.

The Senate confirmed Kindred’s nomination on Feb. 12, 2020, by a 54–41 vote.

Sullivan, in a statement Monday evening on X, formerly known as Twiter, declared “Judge Kindred’s misconduct revealed in the recent investigation is extremely disappointing.” That contrasts with the senator’s statement after Kindred’s confirmation that “Josh’s wide-ranging experience – both in the public and private sectors – will be incredibly valuable to Alaska. Josh understands Alaska’s unique legal jurisprudence. He is committed to honoring the commitments Congress has made to the First People of Alaska, and he is committed to justice. I believe he will serve with honor and integrity on the federal court.”

Murkowski in a statement on X on Monday, wrote “it is more than appropriate that Mr. Kindred tendered his resignation. Judges need to be held to the highest of standards and Mr. Kindred fell well short of that mark. I will be working quickly to advance a replacement nominee for consideration.” Her statement when he was confirmed declared “we are proud of his continued dedication and willingness to serve Alaska and Alaskans. Joshua, a homegrown Alaskan, has an array of experience in both public and private practice, including in criminal and civil litigation and natural resource law. The balance of working in both public and private practice gives him a well-rounded background for understanding all sides of the court process.”

A misconduct investigation against Kindred was initiated in late 2022, according to the judicial misconduct order made public Monday.

“The complaint stated that probable cause existed that Judge Kindred: (1) created a hostile work environment for one or more judicial employees by subjecting them to regular discussions about his personal life, including conversations of a sexual nature, and ostracized a judicial employee who raised concerns about this behavior; (2) engaged in unwanted physical sexual conduct with a former judicial employee and engaged in unwanted verbal sexual conduct with that employee both during and after her clerkship; and (3) told individuals with knowledge of his potential misconduct to remain silent,” the order states.

The Judicial Council’s findings state “throughout these proceedings, Judge Kindred lied to the Chief Judge, the Special Committee, and the Council.”

“Although the evidence indicated that he had a sexual encounter with his former law clerk, Judge Kindred maintained that he ‘never had any sexual contact with [the law clerk],’” the order states. “Only when asked under oath during the Judicial Council meeting of April 5, 2024, did he admit that he had deliberately lied to the Special Committee.”

A statement issued Friday by the U.S. District Court clerk’s office in Anchorage notes “Judge Kindred is currently assigned to 77 open criminal cases (with 102 defendants) and 148 civil cases in the District of Alaska.”

“All of these cases will be reassigned to Chief Judge Gleason, except for seven open cases in the Juneau Division which will be reassigned to Senior Judge Burgess,” the statement notes.

During 2022 to 2023 at least six of the more than federal 800 judges resigned to return to private practice, all Obama appointees who had served between seven and 12 years, according to The New York Times.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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