Quotations of Alex Kozinski

Most people, including myself, would consider Judges Richard Posner and Alex Kozinski to be the two most insightful federal circuit judges. Kozinski is famous for his clear and witty writing. All but the first of these quotes are taken from his judicial opinions.

Ignorance has never stopped a federal judge from expressing an opinion.

For better or worse, we are the Court of Appeals for the Hollywood Circuit.

Saying the same thing twice gives it no more weight.

But courts do not sit to compensate the luckless; this is not Sherwood Forest.

There is not much one can really say about this line of reasoning, except it will persuade only those who are already persuaded.

In the marketplace of ideas, [falsying quotations] gives the author an unjustified monopoly.

But lawyers can only give clients reliable advice to the extent courts in fact do as they say. When courts overlook, stretch, riddle with exceptions or ignore legal principles, prediction becomes difficult. Indeed, it is a commonplace among lawyers that even a fool-proof case can be lost once it gets into court.

Once again, we consider whether a contract is an instrument by which parties can define their rights and responsibilities by mutual agreement, or a platform for judicial policymaking.

Even when the transaction is very sizable, even if it involves only sophisticated parties, even if it was negotiated with the aid of counsel, even if it results in contract language that is devoid of ambiguity, costly and protracted litigation cannot be avoided if one party has a strong enough motive for challenging the contract. While this rule creates much business for lawyers and an occasional windfall to some clients, it leads only to frustration and delay for most litigants and clogs already overburdened courts. It also chips away at the foundation of our legal system. By giving credence to the idea that words are inadequate to express concepts, Pacific Gas undermines the basic principle that language provides a meaningful constraint on public and private conduct. If we are unwilling to say that parties, dealing face to face, can come up with language that binds them, how can we send anyone to jail for violating statutes consisting of mere words lacking “absolute and constant referents”?

The two provisions have as much in common as apples and pineapples: They sound vaguely similar but they grow on entirely different statutory trees.

No one who has occasion to study the Limitations of Liability Act has been struck by its lucidity.

Liberty — the freedom from unwarranted intrusion by government — is as easily lost through insistent nibbles by government officials who seek to do their jobs as by those who sole purpose it is to oppress; the piranha can be as deadly as the shark.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are clear as mountain spring water.

It is a tribute to the state of competition in America that the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice has found no worthier target than this paper tiger on which to expend limited taxpayer resources.

It is wrong to use some constitutional provisions as springboards for major social change while treating others like senile relatives to be cooped up in a nursing home until they quit annoying us. (re the right to bear arms)

Once in a while big, interesting, difficult cases implode, leaving nothing for us to decide. When this happens, we should sweep aside the rubble, not compress it until it turns into a judicial black hole that sucks up productive resources of cosmic proportions. This case is dead. R.I.P.

Private property, including intellectual property, is essential to our way of life. It provides an incentive for investment and innovation; it stimulates the flourishing of our culture; it protects the moral entitlements of people to the fruits of their labors. But reducing too much to private property can be bad medicine. Private land, for instance, is far more useful if separated from other private land by public streets, roads and highways. Public parks, utility rights-of-way and sewers reduce the amount of land in private hands, but vastly enhance the value of the property that remains. So too it is with intellectual property. Overprotecting intellectual property is as harmful as under protecting it. Creativity is impossible without a rich public domain. Nothing today, likely nothing since we tamed fire, is genuinely new: Culture, like science and technology, grows by accretion, each new creator building on the works of those who came before. Overprotection stifles the very creative forces it’s supposed to nurture.

The parties are advised to chill.

Nadine Strossen and Alex Kozinski, Slate, September 21, 1998
Searching for Alex Kozinski, Reason, July 2006
The Unofficial Judge Alex Kozinski Site

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  • Tony Wooster

    Could we get some citations on these? I’d love to read these quotes in context.

  • Alexander Sirkman

    That last one is from Mattel v. Aqua; if you google the quote, you have a decent chance of finding an opinion or a reference thereto.

  • Jsl55

    The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once. Justice Alex Kozinski, US 9th Circuit Court, 2003


  • Splendidbirdy

    If this were a sci-fi melodrama, it might be called Speech-Zilla meets Trademark Kong. Mattel v. MCA