Indianz.Com > News > Federal judge resigns in Alaska following investigation into misconduct
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A tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women in Alaska is seen during an Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage, Alaska, in October 2018. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Federal judge resigns in Alaska following investigation into misconduct
Republican leader on Senate Committee on Indian Affairs scrubs social media of support for disgraced figure
Tuesday, July 9, 2024

A federal judge who was once praised for his work in understanding Native issues — including the crisis of violence against Native women — has resigned following an investigation into sexual misconduct.

U.S. District Judge Joshua M. Kindred of the District of Alaska resigned, effective Monday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced in a news release. The investigation determined that he created a hostile work environment, engaged in an “inappropriately sexualized relationship with one of his law clerks” and lied about the relationship when asked about it.

“The Judiciary is entrusted to self-govern and, in doing so, must hold its federal judges to the highest standards of integrity and impartiality. We take judicial misconduct complaints seriously,” Chief Circuit Judge Mary H. Murguia said in the release.

The 9th Circuit’s announcement was accompanied by a 30-page order and certification that substantiated the sexual relationship with the former judge’s law clerk despite the lies about it. However, in recommending that Kindred face impeachment proceedings, the court did not focus on his treatment of the subordinate employee or the “unwanted, offensive, and abusive conduct” he engaged in with other employees.

Instead, the judicial council for the appellate court that hears a significant number of Indian law cases from several Western states suggested that making false statements could be considered “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” under the U.S. Constitution, and thus grounds for Kindred’s removal from the bench.

“The false statements that Judge Kindred has made throughout these proceedings, along with the severity of Judge Kindred’s misconduct, may constitute one or more grounds for impeachment,” the document stated.

But since Kindred voluntarily resigned through a letter dated July 3, impeachment proceedings won’t be needed to remove him from the court. His departure leaves a void that Alaska’s two U.S. Senators pledged to address.

“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,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who serves as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a post on social media on Monday evening, Eastern time.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) also reacted on social media, referring to Kindred’s misconduct as “extremely disappointing.” He said he would look for a replacement judge who will “interpret the law as Congress intended, not as special interest groups and unelected federal bureaucrats want it to be.”

What Murkowski and Sullivan left out of their statements was their support for Kindred, who was nominated to the bench by Republican former president Donald Trump. Both spoke highly of the disgraced judge and praised his longtime connections to Alaska, which they said would help him handle legal matters in their home state.

In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Murkowski noted that Kindred had been working as a regional solicitor at the Department of the Interior, the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities in Indian Country, when he was nominated. She described him as “truly knowledgeable” about the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and other Alaska-specific laws that impact Native subsistence, an issue still of considerable debate in the federal courts.

“He comes from good family,” Murkowski said on February 11, 2020, as the Senate was moving forward along party lines to advance Kindred’s nomination. “He married into good family. He is a good Alaskan. He knows Alaska. He understands our state well.”

Two months earlier, Sullivan likewise made references to “family” as he introduced Kindred at a nomination hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He praised the Republican pick for addressing “heinous crimes of sexual violence against women” as a criminal prosecutor in Anchorage, the largest municipality in Alaska, and one that is considered a hub for the Native community. He also said Kindred engaged in legal pro bono work that was “focused on combating sexual abuse and domestic violence” in a state where Native women are victimized at disproportionate rates.

“He is committed to honoring Congress’s commitments to Alaska’s first peoples,” Sullivan said on December 4, 2019. “He’s committed to equal justice under the law and will serve with honor and distinction on the federal court in Alaska.”

Once word of Kindred’s resignation became news, social media users started leaving negative replies on Murkowski’s Monday evening statement and on an earlier thread in which the Republican from Alaska explained why she voted in favor of his confirmation as a federal judge. The February 12, 2020, posts — there were three total — included video from her speech on the Senate floor a day prior.

But sometime in the early afternoon on Tuesday, Eastern time, the posts praising Kindred were deleted from @lisamurkowski, Murkowski’s official Senate account on X, formerly known as Twitter, with the Apple version of the social media app displaying a “This post has been deleted” message.

Screenshots of three posts from the February 2020 thread were created by Indianz.Com before they were removed, along with a screenshot of an October 17, 2019, post in praise of Kindred that also has gone missing. An archive of the thread on Wayback Machine shows Murkowski’s original remarks from 2020, including some of the newer negative comments.

Likewise, an October 16, 2019, press release in support of Kindred has been deleted from Meanwhile, a video on the Republican lawmaker’s YouTube channel about Kindred remains online as of Tuesday afternoon.

Lisa Murkowski and Joshua Kindred
Lisa Murkowski and Joshua Kindred
Lisa Murkowski and Joshua Kindred
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) shared her support for Joshua Kindred as a federal judge in a series of social media posts on February 20, 2020. All of the posts have since been deleted from @lisamurkowski, Murkowski’s official U.S. Senate account. Screenshots by Indianz.Com

Lisa Murkowski and Joshua Kindred
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) shared her support for Joshua Kindred as a federal judge in a social media post on October 17, 2019. The posts has since been deleted from @lisamurkowski, Murkowski’s official U.S. Senate account. Screenshot by Indianz.Com

Social media users are also leaving negative comments on Sullivan’s July 8 post about Kindred. But his prior thread in support of the Republican judicial nominee remain online as of Tuesday afternoon, as does a video on his YouTube channel from the Judiciary Committee hearing.

Nominees to the federal bench, including the U.S. Supreme Court, are selected by the President of the United States. But since judicial nominees must be confirmed by the Senate, the picks are historically made in close consultation with the Senators from the same party as the president and, in the case of district court judges, with the Senators from the state where the district court is located.

As a result, home state Senators play a significant role in whether a district court nominee succeeds. Kindred, for example, was nominated by Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate in less than three months, over a period from November 2019 to February 2020, during the 116th Congress. Democrats tried to prevent the nomination from moving forward and from succeeding but were out-voted on both roll calls by Republicans, who were in control of the chamber at the time.

Similarly, opposition from a home state Senator can derail a judicial hopeful, regardless of who’s in the White House or which party controls the Senate. In April, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana), accused President Joe Biden, a Democrat, of failing to “seriously consult” him on the nomination of Danna Jackson to the federal bench in Montana. Jackson, who is a descendant of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, would be the first Native federal judge in the state but her nomination hasn’t moved forward due to Daines, who serves on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

With Biden running for re-election and Trump trying to return to the White House after one term as president, the outcome of the presidential election this November will have a significant impact on the makeup of the federal judiciary, impacting everything from tribal sovereignty to reproductive freedoms.

Tim Burgess and Joshua Kindred
Judge Timothy M. Burgess, left, and Judge Joshua Kindred are seen following the swearing-in of Kindred to the U.S. District Court in Alaska in February 2020. Photo: Sen. Dan Sullivan

According to the order and certification posted on, Chief Judge Murguia “received information about possible misconduct” by Kindred in November 2022. Murguia then “identified” a misconduct complaint on December 27, 2022, which she followed up by creating a “Special Committee” to investigate the allegations against Kindred on February 3, 2023.

Following the investigation, the committee submitted its 1,144-page report on Kindred on March 4, 2024, according to the order and certification. The judge was given an opportunity to respond on April 5, where he presented his views to the Judicial Council of the 9th Circuit.

“When asked if he lied to the Committee, Judge Kindred responded, ‘I—I did,'” the order and certification reads.

The Judicial Council issued the order and certification recommending impeachment for Kindred on May 23. But it took more than a month for the news to become public, due to federal court rules related to investigations.

“The Order and Certification is now being made public pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 360(b) and in consultation with the Judicial Conference of the United States,” the 9th Circuit’s news release from July 8 reads.

Even though Kindred is no longer on the bench, he could still face some sort of action by the Judicial Conference of the United States, which develops policy for the federal judiciary, according to the release.

“The Judicial Conference of the United States will continue to consider the matter, including the certification with respect to impeachment,” the release notes.