Judge Alex Kozinski: From Communist Romania to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
One of our most controversial jurists talks about free speech, cell phones, and how bubble gum made him a capitalist.
â€œThose of you whoâ€™ve had the good fortune to be born in the United States simply have not known the absence of freedoms,â€ says Judge Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. â€œYou can only imagine, but not experience, what itâ€™s like to live in a society where these freedoms are absent.â€
Born in 1950 to Holocaust survivors, Kozinski grew up as a committed communist in Bucharest, Romania. On his first trip outside of the Iron Curtain, in Vienna, Austria, he experienced forbidden luxuries like bubble gum and bananas. It was his first taste of freedom, and it caused him to become, in his words, â€œan instant capitalist.â€
Today, Kozinski is responsible for some of the most influential—and controversial—legal decisions in the United States. Kozinski's rulings have challenged the Obama administration over the issue of same-sex marriage. In a case that tested the limits of parody and artistic expression, he has weighed in on whether a Barbie doll qualifies as a sex object. In one of the most influential dissents in recent memory, he caused federal prosecutors to drop all charges against a defendant who'd been convicted of smuggling of illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexican border.
Kozinski sat down with Reason editor-in-chief Matt Welch during Reason Weekend in Las Vegas for a wide-ranging discussion about freedom and the law. How do mobile phones and cloud computing affect our right to privacy? Why do judges interpret the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution so broadly? Whatâ€™s wrong with the practice of jury nullification?
Kozinski, a self-described libertarian, answers these questions, and many others, with the insight and wry humor that comes from decades of experience on the bench—and a childhood under communism.
About 50 minutes.
Produced by Todd Krainin. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Alex Manning.
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