Former Judge Alex Kozinski today posted online a personal remembrance of Stephen Reinhardt, his longtime friend and adversary on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who died March 29.
“He left a hole in my life, and that of many others, and he left a large hole in our legal system which, with his passing, has become colder, less caring, less passionate, less human,” Kozinski wrote on the Concurring Opinions blog. “The loss is likely to be permanent because, even if there were another Reinhardt out there willing to serve as a federal judge, no president would nominate him and the Senate would certainly never confirm him. We are all the worse for it.”
First Amendment scholar Ron Collins, a regular contributor to Concurring Opinions, said Kozinski “asked me if he might post a tribute,” and he helped facilitate the posting.
Kozinski resigned last December amid allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment of female law clerks. He has been largely silent since then, while the federal judiciary undertook efforts to reform workplace rules and conditions so that victims could feel free to file complaints against judges and other judicial staff members.
From his essay, it appears Kozinski and Reinhardt kept up their friendship of more than three decades until Reinhardt died. “Two nights before he died,” Kozinski wrote, “he called me on his way home from work. I think he was trying to apologize for having been grumpy with me the previous Sunday when I had dropped by his home to fix his TV.”
Other excerpts from Kozinski’s remembrance of Reinhardt:
➤➤ “The fact is, neither Reinhardt nor I pulled punches. He always disdained judges who sugar-coated their opinions in order to spare the feelings of other judges. Whether another judge might be disconcerted by an opinion, he thought, was irrelevant. What mattered was getting the right result and, where appropriate, using the opinion to teach about justice. On that point we agreed, though we sometimes disagreed as to what that lesson should be.”
➤➤ “For a long time, he thought I was gay, to which he would allude on occasion. I demurred, but not too vigorously. If believing I’m gay gained his trust, that was fine with me. Eventually, he figured out I’m a libertarian—a liberal at home and a conservative at work, as the saying goes—and this led us to become bitter opponents in some cases and close allies and co-conspirators in others.”
➤➤ “Why our relationship thrived, despite frequent and vigorous disagreements, is hard to pin down. In part it was that we also often agreed, and when we did we encouraged and supported each other. What Reinhardt brought to the table was a passion for the law and, more particularly, for those unfortunates whom the law treated badly. He would use his considerable talents to find a principled way around adverse precedents and pull out a victory. And when the law was insufficient, Reinhardt would try to find lawful extra-judicial means of achieving a just result.”
➤➤ “What caused our relationship to transform from one of professional respect into a true friendship was more personal in nature. He loved songs of all kinds, especially show-tunes, and would sometimes break into song, not caring whether he got the words or melody exactly right. Steven was a fun guy, once you got to know him, and it turned out we had a lot in common. He loved going to the movies and the theater, he appreciated a good joke, a fine meal (albeit sans anything green), and he had a soft spot for cats.”