Yesterday we put up a post about the mishaps of a federal judge and her family on a recent plane trip. You can read that post by clicking here.
A number of you found it amusing. But not everyone was so pleased.
This morning we received an email from Judge Alex Kozinski, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Kozinski is one of the most highly respected members of the federal judiciary. He is a brilliant thinker, a great writer, and a colorful character. He is a top-ranked feeder judge, and a former Supreme Court clerk himself. Most importantly, he is the reigning Superhottie of the Federal Judiciary.
We reprint Judge Kozinski’s letter below (and after the jump). We are running the letter without interruption, in unredacted form. In a later post, we will reprint his letter again, but with our paragraph-by-paragraph commentary.
And now, Judge Kozinski:
I’ve been a long-time fan of your efforts to demystify and humanize the federal judiciary. Which is why I was so shocked and disappointed by your recent posting about my colleague, Judge [Marsha] Berzon. The part dealing with the incident on the airplane is a vicious and wholly gratuitous personal attack on Judge Berzon and her family. Assuming it bears some nodding resemblance to the truth, which I seriously doubt, it is so laden with pejoratives and half-witticisms that it seems designed only to wound and deride, rather than to enlighten. Federal judges may be public figures who must endure whatever criticism is leveled at us for our work product, but what possible justification is there for holding up members of our families for public ridicule?
Will a single one of your readers have been enlightened or helped in any way by learning what a lawyer who may be nursing a grudge against the judge based on his appearances before her, thinks about her family’s airplane demeanor?
We reprint the rest of Judge Kozinski’s letter after the jump.
Judge Kozinski continues:
Equally disappointing, but far more serious, is the second part of the posting, which refers to Judge Berzon’s work habits in highly pejorative terms — relying largely on comments “[f]rom a former Ninth Circuit clerk.” You are aware, of course, of what I think about former law clerks who speak publicly about matters they learned of during their clerkships. See Alex Kozinski, Conduct Unbecoming, 108 Yale L.J. 835 (1999) (reviewing Edward P. Lazarus, Closed Chambers: The First Eyewitness Account of the Epic Struggles Inside the Supreme Court (1998)).
One problem with such gossip is that it’s generally very hard to refute. In this case, however, I can tell you that your source must have been smoking a controlled substance during working hours because nothing like what he (or should I say it?) reports bears any relation to objective reality.
The allegations, sprinkled throughout the posting — that Judge Berzon is “a Holy Terror to her hapless law clerks,” that “her chambers is a total gong show,” that she “cannot run an office to save her life” — are made up out of whole cloth. One need only examine the quality and quantity of Judge Berzon’s work product since she’s been a member of this court to realize that she runs an effective and efficient law office that consistently produces an impressive body of work. Having tried (unsuccessfully so far) to persuade our court on several occasions to take some of Judge Berzon’s opinions en banc, I can vouch for the quality of the work that comes out of the Berzon chambers.
My personal observations, and discussions with her staff over the years, confirm this view. Her law clerks — at least those I’ve talked to, and there have been many — revere her, and count themselves lucky to have the privilege of learning from her. Scurrilous suggestions to the contrary are quite simply unfounded.
It is very easy — probably too easy — to ruin a fine reputation, and cause personal suffering, by posting unfounded allegations from anonymous sources as if they were the Gospel Truth. I hope that you will correct the record by posting my letter — giving it as prominent a place as the original posting.
We have happily posted Judge Kozinski’s letter (and will do so again, as noted). We have also added a link to this letter as an update to the original post.
We thank Judge Kozinski for this letter and his insights. Many of his concerns are justified, and many of his points are well-taken. He has also drawn our attention to a number of matters that we’d like to clarify.
We wanted to begin by providing Judge Kozinski’s letter to you without interruption. We will reprint it again, but with our running, paragraph-by-paragraph response, in a subsequent post. So please check back soon!
Earlier: Flying the Friendly, Federal Judicial Skies