Law in Popular Culture

9th Circuit judge opens courthouse doors to public for free movie night

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Shocked years ago to learn that many of the clerks for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had never seen 12 Angry Men, Judge Alex Kozinski arranged a screening of the classic film, starring Henry Fonda as a holdout juror.

That was the beginning of a free public movie night hosted by Kozinski several times annually at the 9th Circuit’s headquarters in San Francisco or its Pasadena, California, building, reports the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.).

Himself a film buff, the judge not only selects which film to screen for the Kozinski’s Favorite Flicks event, he also often arranges for a related speaker and provides food and drink. (That costs $10, for those who wish to partake.)

Guest speakers often have a legal background, or know someone who does, and have included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer and his brother, a judge in San Francisco. Peter Fonda, who starred in Easy Rider, came to a screening of that film. Last year, when the 9th Circuit held its annual conference, Kozinski showed Gran Torino, and star Clint Eastwood was interviewed by Kozinski and another judge.

The 64-year-old judge calls the event a labor of love. He purchases the food at Costco, and his longtime administrative assistant, Donna Salter, makes a famous salad, the newspaper reports.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun,” she told the Times, noting that “my mother, who is 93, always comes” when movie night is held in Pasadena.

In addition to acquainting others with some of his favorite films, Kozinski says the event helps the public see the judicial system in a different light.

“We should be viewed as being part of the community,” he told the newspaper. “We have these glorious facilities, and I want to bring the public in and show that this is a place where they are welcome.”

Related coverage “12 Angry Men”

See also:

Los Angeles Times (sub. req.): “As trial nears, 9th Circuit Court accused of favoring Hollywood”

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