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With a new U.S. president recently inaugurated, the timing was ideal for a conversation on “The Future of the Judiciary” with the Hon. Alex Kozinski, Dean Andrew Guzman and Professor Sam Erman. One of the leading jurists in the country, Judge Kozinski serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In 1985, when he was appointed by Pres. Ronald Reagan, Kozinski became the youngest judge on the federal appeals court.
Dean Andrew Guzman and Hon. Alex Kozinski shared a conversation with Gould students on judiciary's future, as part of the annual Roth lecture series.
Dean Guzman and Prof. Erman led the Jan. 24 discussion, with questions on how Kozinski projects the ideological direction of the entire judiciary if Pres. Trump is able to gain Senate confirmation of a conservative to the Supreme Court. “It’s a fair impulse that if the Supreme Court turns rightwards, the judicial system will follow like a locomotive,” he said. “We are not exactly like a caboose, but we have to follow behind the engine. I think the entire judicial system is like a locomotive, we have to follow.”
Kozinski, a conservative who is well-known for his candor, also offered insight into the politics behind the confirmation process. “I have been the beneficiary of this process and I have known the judges who are appointed to be my colleagues, and they are absolutely marvelous,” he said. “People fret about the confirmation process as being too difficult. But as a result of this process, we have gotten some very good judges.”
The conversation was part of the Justice Lester W. Roth Lecture series and open to the USC community. The crowd was “standing room only,” comprised of law faculty and students eager to hear firsthand from a federal judge whose decisions they often read in their casebooks and analyze in their classrooms.
Guzman noted that Kozinski’s success on the court can be measured in different ways. “One way that is more relevant to our audience than most others is that he is recognized as one of the most important judges to clerk for, especially if one has aspirations to clerk for a Supreme Court justice,” said Guzman, who also highlighted that Kozinski himself clerked for both Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, when Kennedy was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and for Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger.
While the conversation touched on the current political climate, Kozinski also shared his thoughts on the limits of forensic evidence (“Much of it is garbage…totally useless”) and the human costs of the high rate of lengthy incarcerations in the U.S. (“We have the biggest prison population in the world….We have longer sentences…The result is a domino effect on the families of these people.”)
“Few United States Courts of Appeals judges have had more influence on doctrine, judicial administration, young
USC Gould students got the opportunity to engage with Judge Kozinski.
lawyers, legal academia, or public debate than Judge Kozinski,” said Prof. Erman, who urged his students to attend.
One of Erman’s students, 2L Brady Witbeck, said: “Being able to listen to one of the most well-known judges in the country, in an informal setting, is one of the benefits of going to a law school with a small class size."
The Justice Lester W. Roth lecture series is made possible by a gift from the Louis and Florence Cohen Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. The Honorable Lester W. Roth ’16 served as Justice of the California Court of Appeal Second Appellate District 1964-1992.