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Friday, July 14, 2006 

From the Mouth of Kozinski

Judge Alex Kozinski is one of the most intelligent and entertaining federal judges. He's got a great writing style, a sharp wit, and an active sense of humor that has served him well during his two decades on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kozinski sat down with Reason for this very interesting interview.

Here is Kozinski talking about growing up in Communist Romania and his philosophical transformation...
I was a very committed communist when I was there. I believed in communism, and I thought it was the wave of the future. When my parents applied to leave, I thought it was a good thing because I’d be able to educate the workers of the West that they were being enslaved by capitalist exploiters.

When we arrived in Vienna, I discovered bubblegum and chocolate. These things were nonexistent in Romania, and I immediately became a capitalist. I was easily bought off.

The Reason interviewer spent a great deal of time talking about privacy. He/she seemed to be trying to get Kozinski to agree that the courts had to protect people's privacy as they began using new technologies. Here is Kozinski's response...
If you can set up an e-mail system using your own servers, using nobody else’s lines, then you can have a perfectly secure system. You want to use other people’s telephone lines and other people’s networks, and you want to be protected from being monitored by them. You can try to sort out your privacy concerns contractually with your provider or employer, but it should be up to you.
This has been my point of view. If you are using someone else's service to access the internet (for example), don't be shocked that they have a record of everything that you view. You are choosing to use their service. If you don't like the terms of service (you know, that thing you never read and just click OK), don't sign up for it.

While discussing the FISA issues and use of presidential in national security, Kozinski offered up this comment...
It depends on the body count, doesn’t it? Fifty million dead? A hundred million dead? Or are you talking about destroying America as we know it? Destroying our industrial base or covering our fields with radioactive waste so we can’t grow any food for the next three millennia? I’d be willing to give up some privacy to prevent those things.
Kozinski seems to be taking a very pragmatic, Posner-esque approach to the War on Terror. Would you rather have the president actively and aggressively searching for threats or not? And if not, would the possible high costs of not actively searching change how you think? This was the most surprising comment from Kozinski in the interview.

Kozinski seems to tip his hat slightly about his views on the Court's record on campaign finance laws and protecting free speech...
Well, they had done that before in Buckley v. Valeo [a 1976 ruling that upheld campaign finance laws]. I was disappointed they didn’t cut back on Buckley, but they’re not perfect. By and large, they’ve been pretty effective on free speech. We have some Supreme Court justices, such as Justice Kennedy, who are very protective of free speech. He usually picks up a majority. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t go farther in some areas.
I think that Kozinski would have no problem gutting Buckley if he were on the Court.

Kozinski also talks about public schools, limited government, the Kelo decision (which he agreed with), capital punishment, and the Commerce Clause. This was a great interview. I really wish that federal judges (especially interesting ones) would talk more like this.

The last question in the interview really sums things up nicely...
Reason: Then can you tell us which justice or judge out there most exemplifies your own approach to law?

Kozinski: Judge Kozinski.

The man is nothing but an individual.

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