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U.S. District Court Judge Josh Kindred’s resignation raises some serious questions

Yesterday, I received a tip that U.S. District Court for Alaska Judge Josh Kindred was resigning. I was able to confirm that he had in fact sent a short resignation letter to the White House. His resignation was submitted on July 3 and is effective on July 8.

A federal judge resigning is rare. The job is a lifetime appointment and Kindred, just 47, has only been on the bench since 2020. Former President Donald Trump appointed Kindred in October 2019. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in February 2020 by a 54-41 vote.

Here is Kindred’s resignation letter that he sent to President Joe Biden.

I was not entirely surprised to learn that Kindred was resigning. Early last summer I received a tip that Kindred had engaged in some kind of inappropriate relationship with a former clerk. After clerking, she went to work for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.

I was unable to get anyone to talk on the record or provide any proof. But not long after I received the tip, Kindred and his wife filed for divorce. According to Alaska CourtView, the divorce petition was made on July 7, 2023 and was granted on October 9, 2023.

Since yesterday, I have learned more about what may have happened. Sources report that Kindred was under some kind of investigation by the Judicial Council.

In 2017, Alex Kozinski, who served on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, resigned after an inquiry was opened into sexual harassment allegations against him. According to this article:

“In sum, within the space of three days, the Chief Justice transferred the proceeding to the Second Circuit Judicial Council and then-Judge Kozinski resigned, completely relinquishing his office, placing himself outside the parameters of the Act and precluding any inquiry by the Judicial Council. Because the Judicial Council is without statutory authority to do anything more, we must close this matter,” the Second Circuit Court wrote.

So Kindred resigning would end any investigation or inquiry. The only way an Article III judge can be removed is by impeachment. Just 15 judges have been impeached in U.S. history, and only eight were convicted.

So what exactly was Kindred under investigation for? That is not yet completely known, but there are a lot of interesting facts. Here they are.

Tara Lewis served as a judicial law clerk for the District of Alaska in Anchorage from June 2020 – September 2022, according to her LinkedIn. Then she worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alaska starting in September 2022. Her LinkedIn says she left in October 2023, and then started working for the Department of Justice in D.C. in January.

Karen Vandergaw and Seth Brickie-Smith, both assistant U.S. attorneys for the District of Alaska, had all of their cases before Kindred reassigned in November 2022, according to sources. Kindred has since been recused of any cases either of them are working on.

Vandergaw has been an assistant U.S. attorney in Alaska since 2018, according to her LinkedIn. It’s not clear how long Breckie-Smith has been an assistant U.S. attorney, but according to the Alaska Bar he was admitted in June 2021.

Vandergaw and James Klugman, another assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Alaska, had an affair last year. Vandergaw and her husband, Sam Vandergaw, filed for divorce on February 21, 2024. It was granted on April 30, 2024, according to Alaska CourtView.

Klugman broke off his engagement with Suzanna Caldwell, a former ADN reporter, last September. She posted about it on Facebook.

All of these facts beg some important questions:

  • Why were Karen Vandergaw and Seth Bricey-Smith’s cases reassigned from Kindred in late 2022? And why has Kindred been recused from their cases since? Did they do, know, or see something?
  • Why did Tara Lewis leave her job in Alaska for a job in D.C.?
  • What does James Klugman, who is now with Vandergaw, know?
  • What does U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska Lane Tucker know?
  • When and why did the investigation into Kindred begin?

In response to several questions, Reagan Zimmerman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney in Alaska, said their office has no comment.

It’s clear multiple people in the U.S Attorney’s Office knew something was going on with Kindred. It’s important for the public to know what they knew and if they ever used or tried to use the information to their advantage. I am actively trying to learn more. If you have any information, please contact me.

Kindred’s resignation leaves another vacancy in the District of Alaska, where there are only three active judges. In late 2021, Judge Timothy Burgess went to senior status. Since, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska) have been unable to agree on a name to send to President Joe Biden. Now they will need to agree on two people. And with the presidential election in four months, it’s unlikely any names will be submitted until after the election.

Karen Vandergaw has not responded to a phone call or voicemail. Judge Kindred has not responded to a text message.

This is a developing story.

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Commenter
12 days ago

Did you ask the person whether you could repost that Facebook post? It seems like a post that was only shared among friends, not a public post, and sort of an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

Commenter 2
12 days ago
Reply to  Commenter

agreed, who saved a screen shot? strange.

Christie Johansen-Pinney
12 days ago
Reply to  Commenter 2

Public record, kids. Facebook never dies.

Why
12 days ago

Still gross, Christie.

STFU
12 days ago
Reply to  Commenter

Please, just STFU.

Akwhitty
11 days ago
Reply to  STFU

She was STFU. Stating the facts useless.

Pierre Lonewolf
12 days ago

If you think that anything on facebook is private you are very mistaken……

Nunya Bidness
12 days ago

Lisa wants well qualified candidates, while Ohio Dan wants what the Farting Felon and Leo want: Federalist MAGA loonies, totally unqualified, like this guy.

kotodama
6 days ago
Reply to  Nunya Bidness

Only problem—just a small one, mind you—with that theory is that Murkowski was cheerleading this guy at the time right alongside Sullivan. That he would end up having a huge debacle like this was completely predictable to anyone with eyes to see.

Frustrated Attorney
3 days ago
Reply to  kotodama

Senator Murkowski was not cheerleading Kindred for the position of district court judge. Sullivan reached down into the bottom of the barrel and picked the person who had one of the lowest Bar poll scores, which poll includes asking his peers about his legal skills and temperament to be a judge, and selected him over many other better qualified candidates. Senator Murkowski was simply supporting her colleague’s choice for federal district court judge since it was Sullivan’s “turn” to select a judge. However, since they both supported him even though his Bar poll score was among the lowest of all… Read more »

Your Mom
12 days ago

Bud: I hope your lawyer is on speed-dial.

Why
12 days ago

By posting the Facebook post, you actually caused harm to a victim of this whole thing. Shame on you.

Alfredo Liberace III
12 days ago
Reply to  Why

While I can appreciate where you’re coming from–I’m sure this article is terribly embarrassing for Caldwell–the victim you are referring to was not the victim of a crime, but was rather dumped by some weird sociopath attorney guy. Breakups are part of the sometimes painful tapestry of our lives. She is apparently a reporter (small town public figure) who I’m going to guess intentionally makes her Facebook public so the public can follower her, and chose to post a horrible breakup story publicly. It’s unfortunate that her pain is now part of an article coming out of the Judge Kindred… Read more »

McButters
12 days ago

What level of moron thinks a Facebook post is private?

Alfredo Liberace III
12 days ago

Did Seth Bricey-Smith film them or was it a threesome?

Reggie Taylor
12 days ago

Thanks for the “heads up” reporting. These are the kinds if stories that tend to be hidden. It’s good that you’re reporting it. Well done.

Allen
6 days ago
Reply to  Reggie Taylor

I appreciate the women lawyer names because the order explaining the investigation into Kindred did not have names — some of the behavior by the women lawyers with cases in front of the judge is very disgusting and outrageous as well, such as texting nude photos to the judge.

sam
12 days ago

All those family values. Maybe time to read the 10 commandments “they” want to implement

Alta
12 days ago

I love it! Please keep reporting!

Alta
11 days ago
Reply to  Alta

It’s time to expose these corrupt hillbillies for what they are

Marlin Savage
9 days ago

iTs a wITcHunT!1

Henry Fung
9 days ago

Reading the report, I wonder if Vandergaw was the senior AUSA who sent the explicit messages in the flirtatious relationship. Certainly seems like it.

Please Park Prettily
7 days ago

So Kindred resigning would end any investigation or inquiry,” according to all reporting since the resignation, appears to be wrong, as, apparently, was the article on which Jeff based this sentence. Any subsequent Landmine article on the Kindred matter should acknowledge the error and correct it.

907Innocent
6 days ago
907Innocent
6 days ago
Reply to  907Innocent

In many ways Vandegraw’s conduct was wise than the Judge’s.

Allen
6 days ago
Reply to  907Innocent

Only demoted? The American people deserve better than being represented by a person of such low moral character.

Allen
6 days ago

More specifically, the investigation into Judge Kindred’s conduct was performed by the federal Judicial Council of the 9th Circuit, not the Alaska Judicial Council (evaluates candidates for Alaska judgeships). The federal Council’s report on Kindred is at https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59f229bd2aeba5312c87df44/t/668daa6b0a7000735f9fdc73/1720560236105/Kindred.pdf