Alex Kozinski

There’s always something fun going on in the Ninth Circuit. Last week, the Court voted against rehearing en banc in United States v. Alvarez, a case raising the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act (a law that essentially criminalizes false claims of military heroism). A divided three-judge panel struck down the Act on First Amendment grounds, and the Ninth Circuit voted against reconsidering that decision en banc.

Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain (disclosure: my former boss) wrote a spirited and persuasive dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc, on behalf of himself and six other judges. The dissenters argued that the Act passes constitutional muster and that the First Amendment does not protect knowingly false statements of fact (subject to certain exceptions not presented by the law). The position that the Stolen Valor Act is constitutional is shared by a number of prominent scholars, including First Amendment guru Eugene Volokh.

But this is far from an open-and-shut case (unlike many of the Ninth Circuit cases that generate dissents from denial of rehearing, which we’ve previously described as the “Bat Signal” flashed by right-of-center Ninth Circuit judges to the Supreme Court when the lefties run amok). On the other side of the Alvarez case was Chief Judge Alex Kozinski — Professor Volokh’s former boss, and a jurist who, like Judge O’Scannlain, is often vindicated by SCOTUS smackdowns of Ninth Circuit liberals.

(Digression: I don’t like it when two of my most favorite federal judges cross swords! It’s like watching a fight between My Two Dads. I’d much rather see the two of them join forces against the Emperor Palpatine and She Who Must Not Be Named.)

Chief Judge Kozinski wrote a rather colorful concurrence to the denial of rehearing en banc. Some hilarious highlights from it, plus a fun movie-related tidbit from His Honor, after the jump.

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Were you disappointed by James Franco and Anne Hathaway as Oscars hosts? If so, you weren’t alone. PopEater described their hosting efforts, especially Franco’s, as “a disaster.” The New York Times declared the proceedings to be “downright painful” at points.

Next year, the Academy Awards should go in a different direction. Enough pandering to the youth. For 2012, the Oscars host should be a certain hilarious, older Jewish gentleman, who has been celebrated over the years for his brilliance and wit, and who knows a great deal about movies.

Bring back Billy Crystal? Not a bad idea — but here’s a better one. Bring on Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit!

In addition to his incredible intellect and superb sense of humor, Chief Judge Kozinski has an encyclopedic knowledge of film. Recall his famous ruling in the movie-industry case of United States v. Syufy Enterprises, featuring over 200 film titles woven artfully into the text of his opinion.

Chief Judge Kozinski knows movies, and he loves movies. He goes to the cinema every chance he gets. In fact, His Honor recently sent a movie recommendation my way — and it’s PG-13, in case you’re wondering….

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Disclosure: I'm pals with Judge Kozinski.

Given my prior stewardship of Underneath Their Robes, it should come as no surprise that I like my judges to exhibit some humanity. My favorite judges are those with personality, spunk, and a sense of humor, not the judicial automatons who just crank out dry opinions.

Sometimes judges can be, well, all too human. They might make mistakes — such as, for example, letting their lovers take nude photos of them in compromising positions, which then wind up on the internet. But that’s okay — the photos might be embarrassing, but they don’t call into question judicial impartiality or otherwise prevent the judge from serving.

(All the photos might show is that judges like sex — and is there anything wrong with that? As Elie quipped to me this morning, with regard to the Justice Lori Douglas photos, “I’m not worried about the judges who like having sex. I’m worried about the ones who don’t like having sex.”)

Earlier this week, the Honorable Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, reminded us that judges are people too — people who still enjoy free speech rights, despite their judicial offices….

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Thanks to all the Above the Law readers who responded to the request from Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Chief Judge Kozinski sends his gratitude, along with an update….

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The Honorable Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, has a favor to ask of Above the Law readers….

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For a long time, Jonathan Lee Riches reigned as Craziest Pro Se Litigant in America. But at a certain point, JLR jumped the proverbial shark. His handwritten complaints, making bizarre allegations against everyone from Michael Vick to Martha Stewart to the late Benazir Bhutto, were just too clever by half. And once he passed the 1,500 mark in lawsuits, his shtick got… old.

Fortunately we have a new favorite pro se party for you. Meet Deborah Frisch (or Deborah E. Frisch, Ph.D., as she identifies herself in court filings). Frisch appears to be something of a loon, despite her doctorate and past teaching positions at such schools as the University of Oregon and the University of Arizona. Ironically enough, or maybe not so ironically, the nutty professor teaches… psychology.

Here’s the charming opening paragraph from a document that Frisch filed last week in federal district court in Oregon:

Plaintiff shall henceforth refer to self as litigant since she is defendant, appellant or plaintiff, depending on which shyster-vermin she is dealing with. Litigant files this response to the order filed by Docket Clerk Brinn and signed by USDC-OR Magistrate Coffin deeming all pending motions… moot since the frocked cowfucker in San Francisco denied the plaintiff’s appeal.

The “frocked cowfucker” appears to be the Honorable Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, who served on a panel that rejected a Frisch appeal. For the record, his chambers are in Pasadena, not San Francisco.

Let’s look at the rest of Frisch’s filing, shall we?

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Practice pointer: don’t refer to judges as ‘frocked cowf**kers.’

When we filed our last column, we were full of anticipation over Chelsea Clinton’s then-upcoming wedding. And the New York Times did not let us down with its wall-to-wall coverage of the big day. In case you missed it, you can read the NYT on Chelsea’s dress, Chelsea’s wedding planner, the secrecy, the confidentiality agreements, the feeding frenzy, the frustration of the fashion media, the interfaith angle, the rabbi’s spiritual journey, and the reaction in the town of Rhinebeck. Oh, and there’s a slideshow.

And now, on to this week’s couples (we’re including one standout from mid-July that we’d missed):

1. Emma Mittelstaedt and James Burnham

2. Dace Caldwell and Roman Martinez

3. Anne Stephens and Preston Lloyd

Read all about these couples and their exploits, after the jump.

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Chief Judge Alex Kozinski gives a thumbs up to privacy for the poor

A user’s manual that’s 200+ years old can be difficult to apply to modern technologies. Thus, it’s been a challenge for judges interpreting the Fourth Amendment as it applies to police surveillance via GPS tracking devices on cars.

There has been a plethora of precedents set across the country as to whether slapping a GPS tracker on a car is considered a “search” and whether a warrant is needed. A Wisconsin state court decided last year that warrantless GPS surveillance is okay. Within a week of the Wisconsin decision, a New York state court disagreed. More recently, the D.C. Circuit ruled that GPS tracking is indeed a search, and introduced what the Volokh Conspiracy’s Orin Kerr called a “mosaic theory of the Fourth Amendment,” i.e., that a series of discrete facts may be public, but their aggregation may violate privacy rights. Kerr dissed the D.C. Circuit’s mosaic ruling, but Cato’s Julian Sanchez was a fan.

The Ninth Circuit got in on the GPS-Fourth Amendment throwdown too. As noted by How Appealing, a Ninth Circuit panel — consisting of two of the court’s more conservative members, Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Randy Smith, and Judge Charles Wolle (S.D. Iowa), sitting my designation — ruled that police officers who placed a GPS device on the underbed of a suspected drug dealer’s car while it was parked outside of his house did not violate his constitutional rights.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski was not happy about their decision. He wrote an angry dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc, accusing the judges of “cultural elitism,” by granting privacy rights to the rich but not to the poor…

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Calls his fellow judges ‘cultural elitists’ when it comes to privacy.

Last week, I wrote (with great pleasure) about whether women lawyers should wear peep-toe shoes to court. In my informal poll of seven federal judges, the vote broke down roughly as follows: four in favor, two opposed, and one in the middle. (See the update — Judge Susan Graber seemed agnostic on peep-toes, but advised lawyers, male and female alike, “to consider comfort and color” in footwear choices.)

One of the judges who dissented, lodging her opposition to a litigatrix sporting peep-toe shoes in court, was Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (9th Cir.):

My view is that if you have a question about the appropriateness of your attire, don’t risk it. Women appearing in court should never wear anything that draws attention to their anatomy over the merits of their case. You just never know how your audience — judges, jurors, clients or senior partners — will react. It’s better to play it safe in formal settings and save the peep-toes for after hours.

But don’t get the wrong impression about Judge Wardlaw, who is fierce and fabulous (see my earlier interview of her). She is not some fashion fuddy-duddy. Although she recommends against lawyers wearing peep-toes to court, she owns many pairs of herself, which she happily wears in chambers.

Check out these photos of Judge Wardlaw modeling peep-toe shoes, sent to Above the Law by her colleague on the Ninth Circuit, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski….

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A portrait of Judge Kozinski as a young man.

* Hans Bader of CEI is fine with the bar exam — congrats to everyone who just finished, by the way — but wants to ditch the requirement of graduating from law school. After all, “[e]ven students who seldom studied, and reputedly were on drugs, managed to graduate from my alma mater, Harvard Law School.” [DC SCOTUS Examiner]

* For people who profess to hate law school, they sometimes act like they’re still in it: anti-law-school bloggers get caught up in a catfight. [Confessions of a Laid-Off Lawyer]

* A collection of entertaining legal opinions. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski appears multiple times, of course. [Google Scholar Blog]

* Chipotle is delicious — but does it violate the ADA? [Cato @ Liberty]

* Can Wall Street wipe out street language? [Law and More]

* Attention litigators: McKool Smith is hiring for its New York office. [ATL (sponsored content)]

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