judge john m walker jr judge john walker.jpgMore details have emerged concerning the accident in which Judge John Walker (2d Cir.) hit a police officer with his SUV. Here’s the latest news:

A federal judge in a sport utility ran into a police officer directing traffic in the rain, critically injuring the officer, authorities said Thursday. New Haven police Chief Francisco Ortiz said Senior Judge John M. Walker was “very much distraught”over the Tuesday night crash.

Officer Dan Picagli, 38, was in critical condition Thursday at Yale-New Haven Hospital. He had been wearing a black raincoat and a reflective vest when he was hit, Ortiz said.

Ortiz said Walker is cooperating, and police did not feel it was necessary to test him for drugs or alcohol.

Coincidentally, just last month the New York Law Journal published a rather long article reviewing John Walker’s successful tenure as Chief Judge of the Second Circuit. Some excerpts and commentary, after the jump.


Judge Walker is well-liked by his colleagues:

Chief Judge Walker, who hands the reigns as chief to Judge Dennis Jacobs effective Sunday, is known among his colleagues as a gentleman who employs a respectful attitude to build consensus on the court and to keep disharmony to a minimum.

He noted in an interview Tuesday that his tenure was marked by three major events: the attacks on the World Trade Center, a flood of immigration appeals that threatened to overwhelm the court’s docket, and, finally, after years of trying, securing funds for badly needed renovations at the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse at 40 Foley Square.

This is consistent with what we’ve heard from former Second Circuit clerks. The Second Circuit tends to be one of the more collegial appeals courts in the country, perhaps in part because its chief judges have done a good job of fostering collegiality. (And it’s also one of the most desirable circuits to clerk on, given its overall prestige* and its headquarters in New York.)

Judge Walker, 65, followed Judge Ralph K. Winter as chief judge. He had the option of serving one more year in the top spot but declined. Instead, he elected to take senior status and will maintain an active caseload.

“I found the administrative work to be at best extremely interesting and, at other times, difficult and extremely frustrating,” he said.

Judge Jon Newman, who served as the circuit’s chief judge from 1993 to 1997, said the job “presents an extraordinary range of problems, many of which are unexpected.”

“There’s no real manual for being a chief judge,” Judge Newman said. “There are some statutory responsibilities, but most tasks are by tradition and the different circuit courts do things differently.”

Who’s our favorite chief judge of a federal circuit these days? Maybe Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit; he’s quite a character.
Or perhaps Mary Schroeder of the Ninth Circuit. She’s tough. And when she plays, she plays for keeps.
* Overall prestige, insofar as it’s a prestigious circuit as a whole; but the Second Circuit doesn’t have as many superstar or feeder judges as one might expect. The only feeder judge of the first rank who’s on the Second Circuit is Guido Calabresi (and perhaps Pierre Leval).
Judge’s SUV Hits Police Officer in Conn. [Fox News]
Walker Proved a Steady Hand in Times of Crisis [New York Law Journal]
Earlier: The Wheels of Justice: Judge John M. Walker Hits Police Officer in Traffic Accident


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