Capital Punishment Advocate Kozinski To Lead 9th Circuit


Death penalty advocate Alex Kozinski becomes chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Dec. 1. The National Law Journal notes that he will be the first conservative in a decade to lead what is regarded as the nation’s most liberal federal appellate court. The youngest federal appellate judge when he was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1985 at age 35, he was confirmed by a 54-43 Senate vote. Liberal 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt said of Kozinski’s ascension: “Buckle your seat belts; it is going to be a bumpy ride,” Reinhardt said, in a paraphrase of Bette Davis’ famous line in “All About Eve.”

In the well-known capital case of Thomas Thompson, judges missed a deadline to call for an en banc vote to review inconsistent prosecution theories that convicted two men, one of them Thompson, for the same murder. Kozinski dissented, the Supreme Court upheld his position, 5 to 4, and Thompson was executed. Kozinski responded to critics in a 2004 interview, “They say, ‘Death is different.’ I guess I don’t buy that. Formalism is important.”


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