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Summer 2002
The Contrarian
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"I avoided coming, even briefly, within a policeman's physical power, and thus avoided the risk that the power would be abused," he noted that evening on, an Internet "blog" (short for weblog) run by his friend and fellow constitutional law professor Glenn Reynolds, who teaches at the University of Tennessee. "I avoided the usual demeaning pressure to be especially submissive to the cop in the hopes that he might let me off the hook. ... I didn't have to wonder whether maybe I was stopped because of my sex or race or age. Not a bad way to enforce a pretty important law."

Of course, a camera also eliminates the possibility that an errant driver can charm the policeman out of a ticket with a full and apologetic admission of guilt. To that argument, Volokh has a ready answer, as he does for pretty much any argument: "That might be good for you personally," he responds briskly when I relate a couple of days later how I'd recently done just that. "But it's not good for society systematically."

This interest in policy analysis is what drew Volokh, a prodigy who graduated from UCLA at age 15 with a B.S. in math and computer science, to switch from the techie life to the study of law. "I figured that, rightly or wrongly, in America it's lawyers who get involved in public policy and who participate at that level in public debate," says Volokh, who emigrated with his family from Kiev in the former Soviet Union when he was 7. "I wanted to lead a semi-public life. I wanted to write op-eds, talk to reporters, be on talk shows, get involved in cases and initiatives and election campaigns. And, knock wood, I have gotten exactly what I wanted."

A young-looking 34, Volokh naturally looked even younger when he began teaching law at 26. "I always wear a shirt and tie in class, and my rule is I'll keep wearing a tie until I get more gray hair," he says. Still, there is occasional confusion at receptions for incoming law students. "They'd say, 'You look really young to be a law professor,'" Volokh notes. "And I always say, 'What I lack in years I make up for in chutzpah.' Which has always been true!"

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