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Discover the Career Success of Law Professor Eugene Volokh - LawCrossing

published March 09, 2023

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Summary

Eugene Volokh is an American law professor at UCLA School of Law. He is renowned for his expertise in the fields of free speech law, intellectual property law, and criminal law. He has written several books as well as hundreds of articles on various legal topics.


Eugene Volokh was born in Moscow, Russia in 1967. After attending Moscow State University, he immigrated to the United States in 1990. He received his j.D. from UCLA in 1995 and afterwards worked for the firm of Kirschner, Weinberg and Dempsey. In 1999, Volokh began teaching at UCLA School of Law and holds a joint appointment in the university's Intellectual Property and Law of Cyberspace program.

Volokh has made notable contributions to the field of free speech law. He has argued numerous cases before the United States Supreme Court, including Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002), McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003), and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). In addition, he often shares his unique perspectives on legal issues by writing for newspapers and journals, such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.

In terms of academic accomplishments, Eugene Volokh was awarded the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award in 2009. He has also held visiting professor positions at Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago.

Eugene Volokh is an esteemed American lawyer and professor specializing in free speech law, intellectual property law, and criminal law. He has authored several books and hundreds of articles on various legal topics, and has argued several cases before the United States Supreme Court. He is a recipient of the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award and has held visiting professor positions at Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago.
 

The Life and Career of Eugene Volokh, Law Professor

Eugene Volokh is a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in the First Amendment, tort law, and religious freedom. Born in Moscow, Russia in 1968, he has gone on to become a well-esteemed professor, author, and vlogger. Professor Volokh is considered one of the top First Amendment scholars in the world, having published 13 books and more than 60 articles on the topic.
 

Eugene Volokh's Education and Credentials

Growing up, Eugene Volokh studied in various international schools before receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in math from UCLA in 1989 and a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from the same university in 1991. He went on to earn his juris doctor from Harvard Law School in 1994 and started teaching at UCLA in 1995.
 

Eugene Volokh's Professional Accomplishments

Professor Volokh's professional accomplishments have earned him a reputation as one of the most influential legal scholars in the country. He has also had the honor of working with the Supreme Court of the United States and the California Supreme Court. In addition, Volokh has authored or co-authored a variety of books, including “The First Amendment and Related Statutes: Cases and Materials,” “The Religion Clauses of the First Amendment,” and “The Volokh Conspiracy: An Online Discussion of Legal Issues.”
 

The Volokh Conspiracy and Other Online Ventures

Eugene Volokh created the blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, which was an online forum for legal professionals to discuss current issues in the law. The blog quickly gained popularity, and Volokh has since been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Time Magazine. In addition to his work on the Volokh Conspiracy, Volokh has also authored several other blogs, including "Academic Questions," "The First Amendment and Related Statutes," and "The Volokh Conspiracy, a Discussion of Legal Issues."

About three years ago, I found myself hurtling down La Cienega Boulevard at around seventy miles per hour. I was not literally riding shotgun; the 12 gauge was, for legal reasons, stashed in the trunk along with some handguns, rifles, and enough bullets to take out the action hero owners of Planet Hollywood (as well as anyone unfortunate enough ever to have eaten there in the first place). My destination was a seedy firing range not far from LAX, a place populated by "Dukes of Hazzard" wannabes and local residents who seemed intent on honing their neighborhood survival skills. And behind the wheel, serving as my host on this, my first ever foray into the oft-debated world of the Second Amendment? None other than my good friend Eugene Volokh, one of the youngest tenured professors in the history of UCLA Law School.

I first met Eugene when he came here from Russia at the age of seven. My friend Rob Holo (who would later wind up a year ahead of Volokh as a student at UCLA Law School) and I decided to test the new kid. Since we liked to think of ourselves as the math brains of the class, we decided to give him a little quiz on decimals and fractions. Once we were through and had grudgingly passed him, he decided to let us in on something he'd been learning: imaginary numbers. My Yankee buddy and I turned to each other and chortled. Imaginary numbers? What kind of Commie tripe was this? What was next on the syllabus, make-believe history? (Actually, given the fact that Watergate was still fresh in the nation's mind, that topic had more than amply been covered). If this was the stuff Mother Russia was teaching its young, the West could rest assured of its intellectual superiority for generations to come. It would be a full decade before I would finally catch up with those dubious little figures that had been tossed my way by my precocious friend, during which time he would graduate college, co-found a computer company with his father, graduate at the top of his class at UCLA Law School, and become one of the nation's foremost authorities on the first amendment.

The term "genius" - as well as its many cousins in the colloquial - is usually preceded in print by the field in which the honored person is prodigiously prescient; Bill Gates is a "technological genius," Warren Buffet is a "financial wizard." The implication being, of course, that the enormity of their success - whether it be financial, academic, or musical - is limited to one arena. This allows us to coexist peacefully alongside them; to remind ourselves that, aside from one aberrantly large set of skills, they put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do -- and to take consolation in the fact that, on any given day, we could probably beat those pants right off of them in a game of foosball. This is not the case with Eugene Volokh; though I've never taken him on in a game of foosball, I suspect that he would eventually figure out some relationship between space and velocity that would render him triumphant. Because the simple, enviable fact is that his intellect is powered by the kind of verisimilitude that goes beyond the rare and ventures deep into the realm of the unheard-of; not only has he has been staggeringly successful in the world of computers as well as in the field of law, he has enjoyed every bit (as well as byte) of it every step of the way. Not only is he brilliant and multifaceted, he's unperturbed by any sign of the madness and torture that we like to think eventually consumes those who exist on a higher intellectual plane than the rest of us.

Easy? Well pretend for a moment that no matter where you went you were the smartest person in the room. Now, in addition, make yourself the youngest person in the room in this ersatz scenario and you have what was pretty much the day-to-day reality of Eugene Volokh's childhood. Growing up is hard enough; growing up… well, Volokh, required a degree in protective coloration that he would have to earn without the help of any teachers or professors. Jack Weiss, a former high school classmate of Volokh's (and now a Los Angeles City Councilman), recalls an episode in gym class when their sadistic gym teacher decided to make the undersized Eugene - who was about four years younger than the rest of the post-pubescent boys in the class - do extra laps and pushups. Weiss was impressed with Volokh's refusal to crack under pressure, but also with the eleven year-old's contextualization of the situation. Even greater than his humiliation, which was no doubt great, was his objection to the totalitarianism he was forced to suffer; having just come from Russia, he knew a corrupt display of power when he saw one. As a result, his classmates got a lesson not only in grit and spunk, but in the might-makes-right philosophy behind the all-too-human aspect of government as well.

What is perhaps most striking about Volokh, however, is just how well-adjusted the guy seems (I know, I know; taking La Cienega at seventy miles an hour with a rickety car chock full 'o heavy artillery? Trust me; I'll get there). It is an all-too-sad stereotype: the child genius who is forced to grow up too soon and is deprived of the blissful memories that make childhood such a halcyon time (at least in most of our revisionist minds). Volokh for his part doesn't scoff at this, but rather views it as a trade-off; as far as he's concerned, his adult life has more than made up for any sandbox time he might have placed out of. And it has been a doozy of an adult life; Volokh publishes at a fervent pace, testifies before Congress, and is a fixture on NPR. Yet while it all may seem very glamorous and inaccessible to most, it is a life that was borne of a (highly accessible, I may add) love of the law. Despite his background, Volokh insists that his having come from Russia had nothing to do with his decision to become an attorney. Rather, his passion for his chosen field seems to be rooted more in the endless possibilities that law offers the mind that always seeks just a little bit more. He recalls initially going to law school with the intention of becoming a prosecutor, but then realized that "prosecutors, like most lawyers, actually spend very little time thinking or arguing about law." Volokh felt that "the legal rule is usually (not always, but almost always) quite clear, and the real work has to do with the facts - what they are and how you can prove them." Volokh was interested in broader legal issues, and the way he saw it was that the people who most deal with such issues are law professors. In addition, there was the not-too-small issue of the higher quality of life they seemed to enjoy; beyond sabbaticals and summer vacations, Volokh insists that "it's one of the few jobs where you can express whatever view you think is right, about whatever subject you find interesting. Lawyers are constrained by the cases that they get, and by the need to advocate for their clients. Academics have the freedom (in fact, the obligation) to give whatever answer their thinking takes them to. That's quite a luxury." Indeed.

Volokh is, as previously mentioned, a prolific publisher of law-related articles, many of which have to do with the First Amendment. Again, though the connection to tight-lipped, KGB-era Russia would seem more than ample motivation for his field of specialty, Volokh claims this was never a consideration. For starters, it is almost too neat; a plotline borne out of a television movie's need for a pat, crossword-puzzle logic-worthy backstory. The simple fact is that he just seems to have a good deal to say about it. His current article on Crime-Facilitating Speech asks a very topical question; namely, in his words: "When may the law restrict speech that informs people (intentionally or not) how they can commit a crime, or get away with a crime?" Not all of Volokh's published views are as dire or soul-searching however; recently, he published a piece about surveillance in which he mused that cameras at intersections not only aren't a creeping Big Brother fixture on the landscape, they free us up from the potentially humiliating interaction with a traffic officer while providing a valuable service (the article can be downloaded at: www1.law.ucla.edu/~volokh/cameras.htm). Having driven with Volokh, I'm not so sure I disagree.

Okay, now take our aforementioned smartest, youngest guy in the room and put a gun in his hand (finally!) Columbine, right? Wrong, although, eerily enough, our visit to the shooting range did take place on April 14th, 2000 - two days after the tragedy in Littleton. Volokh is no Charlton Heston; never one to cross the thin line that separates strong beliefs from incendiary ones, he feels that "there are lots of good arguments for and against gun control. But one argument that isn't a good one is "guns are icky / scary / alien to me"; and arguments that misunderstand important aspects of guns -- how hard or easy it is to fire handguns or shotguns, what the difference is between a semiautomatic and a revolver, how hard or easy it is to hit what you're aiming at, and so on -- are also not very good. Everyone who is interested in gun policy should learn about guns, and get familiar with them. Then, they can come to whatever conclusion they come to based on the facts, and not on visceral reactions to an unfamiliar inanimate object. And besides, you never know when you might need to use a gun, even if you don't own one but one just happens to be around. At least that always seems to happen in the movies!" Interestingly enough, it is in Volokh's breakdown of the sticky issue of gun control where we gain a window into his unique take on the notion of power. Power, especially as viewed through the prism of guns, tends to be a function of enforcement. And yet in Volokh's eyes, power lies not in the oppression of imposing your will upon someone else, but rather in the understanding of that person. It is a fitting image indeed that the boy whose giant brain necessitated his advancement past his sometimes sneering peers, the boy who made it his business to engineer artificial intelligence, stood by my side on that April night, gun in hand, not to blow away those who might oppose him but rather to understand them.

As our session at the firing range drew to a close, I removed my ear protectors and squinted at the Barney target that Volokh had been kind enough to supply me with (he knew my two young children and figured that this would be therapeutic for me). I hadn't done too well; suffice it to say, the purple dinosaur was hardly extinct by the time I was through with him. We reeled in the target and surveyed the minimal damage. "That's all right," Volokh assured me. "Next time try to squeeze, rather than pull the trigger." Volokh faced his target and demonstrated his perfect form. The gunmen around us took note.

"Like yea?" one of them asked, squinting at his target and firing off a round.

"That's great. Nice cannon, by the way," said Volokh, complimenting the man on his gun.

Volokh and I packed up his gear, then he waved to the guy behind the counter as he shouldered his bag and made his way out of there. As we screeched out of the parking lot, I snuck one last look back at the shack. It wasn't the kind of place where, prior to tonight, I could ever have imagined my friend fitting in, but hey; when you've made it your life's work to understand and be understood, anything is possible.

published March 09, 2023

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