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Summer 2002
The Contrarian
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Volokh is a regular contributor to the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal, and he worked energetically on Proposition 209, which was passed by California voters in 1996 and banned racial preferences at the University of California and other state institutions. He often speaks to the media about copyright, free speech, cyberspace, affirmative action, the separation of church and state, gun control and sexual, religious and racial harassment. Before coming to UCLA, he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and for Judge Alex Kozinski '72, J.D. '75 on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He originally wanted to be a prosecutor, but changed his mind when he noticed as a law student that being a professor seemed to be more fun and also offered the chance to study legal theory rather than sort through piles of facts.

"Now Blackstone in 1765 observed this," he notes, "but I hadn't read my Blackstone. He said that for every 99 cases that turn on an issue of fact, there's one case that turns on an issue of law. Obviously facts are very important. But I was more interested in the rules, the logic."

An aptitude for logical analysis rather than emotional argument keeps Volokh firmly to the right of most of academia. But even there he's rather contrarian, because he eschews reflexive conservative complaints about liberal bias. "At the law school there are about 60 full-time faculty, and I believe five of us are Republicans," he says. "But at the same time, both students and faculty members here are really open to other views. I really put it all to the test when I was involved in the 'Yes on Prop. 209' campaign. It hit them where they lived, because it had to do with their institution. But I never felt any hostility. I felt much opposition, which was only right."

His parents' experience with life under Communism naturally led the family to distrust anything that smacks of government micromanagement, "but at some point things become so different, it's hard to draw analogies," Volokh notes. "Just because Mussolini made the trains run on time doesn't mean it's a bad thing in America for the trains to run on time. For instance, my parents are relatively pro-law enforcement. They say, well, sure, Russia was a police state, but America is not a police state. The police should be given the power to fight crime here."

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