Judge Alex Kozinski Takes Ninth Circuit Helm
New Chief Shares Spotlight with Colleagues, Staff
December 4, 2007
By OCE Public Information Office
New Chief Judge Alex Kozinski has
officially taken the helm at the United
States Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit, his elevation marked by a
symbolic gavel passing ceremony held
Nov. 30 at the James R. Browning U.S.
Courthouse in San Francisco.
Judge Kozinski, 57, of Pasadena,
succeeds Judge Mary M. Schroeder of
Phoenix, who had served since
December 2000. Some two dozen
federal judges, leading members of the Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder (right) passes the gavel to
bar and elected leaders, including a incoming Chief Judge Alex Kozinski
representative of Senator Diane
Feinstein, were among the crowd
present for the changing of the guard.
In his first remarks as executive officer
of the nation’s largest appellate court,
Judge Kozinski sought to share the
spotlight with his predecessors and with
the many people who work behind the
scenes in the federal courts of the West.
“We can only do our jobs as judges due
to the support we have from our staff.
We are really nothing without the
people, the men and women, who serve
us,” he said of law clerks, secretaries
and judicial assistants, staff in the circuit
and district courts, and probation and
pretrial services officers.
“The reason (the judiciary) is such a
great institution is because those folks
who work with us show a commitment
to the job and a commitment to the
institution that is truly remarkable.”
Noting that he has served as either a
judge or law clerk under six of the nine
previous chief judges of the circuit,
Judge Kozinski praised their individual
talents, temperaments and commitment
to the courts of the circuit.
“As all of my predecessors, who have
risen to the occasion with the help of
incredibly talented and helpful
colleagues, both on the court of appeals
(l-r) Chief District Judge Donald W. Molloy, Chief Judge Alex
Kozinski, and Chief District Judge Vaughn R. Walker
and in the district courts, I hope also to rise to the occasion and manage to lead this court through the
One of those predecessors, Senior Judge J. Clifford Wallace of San Diego, also spoke, offering insight into
the role and responsibilities of the chief judge.
“When the chief judge speaks, the people who listen attribute it not just to the individual, but to the
office he holds and to the people whom he represents,” Judge Wallace noted, adding that the chief judge
must build consensus among his colleagues.
Chief judges of the federal trial courts in the circuit will be looking to the new chief circuit judge for help
and leadership, said Chief District Judge Donald W. Molloy of the U.S. District Court for the District of
“There are many, many events and issues that we are going to need your help, your guidance and your
direction. All of us are looking forward to that happening,” Judge Molloy said.
Judge Kozinski is the 10th chief judge of the circuit since Congress created the position in 1948. As chief
judge, he will serve as executive officer of both the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Judicial Council
of the Ninth Circuit, the governing body for federal courts in the west. He also will represent the Ninth
Circuit at biannual meetings of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the judiciary’s national
policy-making body. The chief judge also presides over the 11-judge en banc courts convened by the
court of appeals to resolve intra-circuit legal conflicts or other matters of exceptional importance.
Judge Kozinski has served 22 years on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Nominated by President
Reagan, he received his judicial commission on November 7, 1985. Prior to his appointment to the
appellate bench, Judge Kozinski served as chief judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims from
1982 to 1985.
The Ninth Circuit encompasses Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon,
Washington, the U.S. Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. It
includes the court of appeals and the federal trial and bankruptcy courts in 15 judicial districts within the
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the nation’s largest with 28 authorized judgeships (one vacancy)
and 13,828 filings in 2006.
The chief judge of the circuit assumes the position based on seniority. The chief judge is the judge in
regular active service who is senior in commission of those judges who are (1) 64 years of age or under;
(2) have served for one year or more as a circuit judge; and (3) have not served previously as chief
judge. Judge Kozinski also believes that looks count, though he can provide no support for that
proposition. The term of office is seven years, or until the incumbent turns 70, whichever comes first.
The process is authorized by 28 U.S.C. §45.