Immigration is a hot topic these days. It was the subject of a recent Supreme Court case, Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting (a rare loss for the Chamber, which fares well at SCOTUS). It’s getting implicated in the LGBT rights movement, as gay and lesbian binational couples fight deportations caused by the Defense of Marriage Act. And as Election 2012 gets underway, we’ll surely be hearing more about immigration in the weeks and months ahead.
As the immigration debate continues, let’s keep in mind the important contributions made to our nation by immigrants. For example, one of our most distinguished federal judges — Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — is an immigrant. He was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1950, and he immigrated to the United States with his family in 1962, at the age of 12.
Chief Judge Kozinski recently sent me a great story relating to his naturalization, which I will now share with you (with His Honor’s permission)….
Earlier this week, Chief Judge Kozinski sent the following email to his Ninth Circuit colleagues:
I recently spoke at the district court in Los Angeles and mentioned that my parents and I had been naturalized in that courthouse (312 N. Spring Street) on December 20, 1968. I was asked who the district judge was who administered the oath, and I said I didn’t remember, but I did remember he gave a very inspiring speech.
Terry Nafisi, the district court clerk, was in the audience and she sent someone digging through the records and they were able to find the paperwork. Can any of you guess who it was? Open up the attached file for the answer.
Okay, I will now pause so you can review the documentation in question.
Done? Back to Judge Kozinski:
All I can say is that I’m proud to have been welcomed to citizenship by such a great judge.
How fabulous! Yup, that’s right: Alexander Kozinski was naturalized in 1968, at the age of 18, by Judge Harry Pregerson — his future colleague on the Ninth Circuit.
In 1968, when he naturalized Alex Kozinski, Judge Pregerson was a district judge for the Central District of California (Los Angeles). In 1979, President Carter elevated Judge Pregerson to the Ninth Circuit.
In 1985, President Reagan appointed Alex Kozinski to the Ninth Circuit. At the tender age of 35, Judge Kozinski joined Judge Pregerson — the judge who naturalized him as a U.S. citizen, 17 years earlier — as a life-tenured judge on the nation’s largest federal appeals court.
Ain’t America grand? This is a wonderful immigrant success story.
There’s a funny postscript to all of this, which Chief Judge Kozinski shared with me:
We were supposed to go on our date in Guatalajara in early December, but we found out I couldn’t get into Mexico because I didn’t have a visa — which would take two months to get. So they were going to get me a visa, but I told them not to bother because in a couple of weeks I’d become a U.S. citizen, and U.S. citizens didn’t need a visa. So, we re-scheduled the trip for right after the naturalization ceremony.
So Chief Judge Kozinski owes Judge Pregerson a debt of gratitude. Not only did Judge Pregerson make it possible for Alex Kozinski to become Judge Kozinski, but he also facilitated Kozinski’s international travel with a Dating Game hottie!
P.S. Alex Kozinski is one of our nation’s most well-regarded judges — for his brilliance, his wit, and his ideological independence — but there are probably some people who wish he had never been appointed. E.g., the Winklevoss Twins — who got benchslapped by Judge Kozinski back in April, and who just got smacked down again by Larry Summers, former president of Harvard University.
Alex Kozinski – Naturalization Papers [PDF]
Courthouse Forum: The Hot. Alex Kozinski [Underneath Their Robes]
Rule 28(j) letter from the Hot. Alex Kozinski [Underneath Their Robes]
Kozinski on the Dating Game (and Squiggy, too!) [YouTube]