5th Circuit, Death Penalty, Enron, Fabulosity, Federal Judges, Judicial Divas, Vanessa Gilmore, You Go Girl

The Honorable Vanessa Gilmore: A Delicious Judicial Diva

Vanessa Gilmore Vanessa D Gilmore Judge Above the Law Above the Law judicial diva.jpgIf you’re getting tired of our stories about the DOJ’s Shanetta Cutlar and S&C’s Alexandra Korry, we have a new name to add to our rotation of delightfully high-powered, imperious females. Meet Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (at right), of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Whisper her name out loud: “Vanessa Gilmore.” Doesn’t it even SOUND diva-licious? If she weren’t a federal judge, couldn’t she be a character on “Dynasty”?

But we have reasons other than the sound of her name for declaring this rather attractive jurist to be a judicial diva. From a helpful tipster:

I’d like to bring another judicial diva to your attention: Judge Vanessa Gilmore of the Southern District of Texas. You probably have already read about Judge Gilmore’s ruling in the Enron broadband case vacating Howard’s conviction. I’m not sure she’s a match for Shanetta Cutlar, but she’s no slouch either when it comes to divadom.

[R]umors about her include:

* She has thrown her keys in open court at an attorney (I believe it might have been an AUSA) for calling her “ma’am”;

* She ordered an AUSA to have John Ashcroft personally write her a letter explaining the DOJ’s reasons for seeking the death penalty against one defendant but not others [the Williams case, discussed in more detail below];

* When she didn’t like the particular font counsel used, she told him that she threw his motion in the trash without reading it, and then she ruled against him;

* During trial she is happy to make findings contrary to stipulations of the parties; and

* She encourages ex parte contact with the court and attempts to prevent record-making: any discovery “motions” must be way of a one-page letter to the court. She will then have a hearing which she considers an “oral motion to compel.” She will happily rule without actually seeing any of the discovery propounded.

More about Judge Gilmore, including a discussion of how she got benchslapped by the Fifth Circuit, after the jump.

P.S. We welcome colorful anecdotes about strong personalities within the legal profession regardless of their race, gender, etc. It just so happens that lately we’ve been getting information about women. If you want to tell us about your workplace abuse at the hands of a man — e.g., Eric Krautheimer, of Brokeback Lawfirm infamy — we’re all ears.

Our source — a female lawyer, by the way — continues:

For a taste of Judge Gilmore’s divalicious style, check out the juicy footnotes to this 5th Circuit opinion (PDF), which contain tidbits from the trial transcript.

If you haven’t heard about that case… 20-some illegal aliens suffocated in the back of an 18-wheeler as they were being smuggled into Texas. I believe there were 17 or 18 people arrested and charged with conspiracy, but the DOJ sought the death penalty only against one: Williams.

Gilmore seemed to be convinced that it had to do with his race. She didn’t consider that Williams drove the truck, and when the passenger in the cab with him heard the aliens in the back screaming for air and help, she begged him to turn on the air to the trailer. He refused and as a direct result, those people died.

Anyway, that opinion is *great* for the trial tidbits — unbelievable a federal judge would say such things.

Finally, our source directed us to this post, at Houston’s Clear Thinkers. Money quote:

[There has been a] rather strained relationship between Judge Gilmore and the Fifth Circuit over [the Williams] case. It all started when Judge Gilmore threatened to hold the prosecutors in contempt of court for failing to divulge internal Justice Department deliberations regarding the government’s decision to seek the death penalty against one of the defendants. The prosecution filed a writ of mandamus (that’s like suing the judge) with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals requesting the appellate court to order Judge Gilmore, in effect, to cease ordering the prosecution to turnover evidence of communications that are clearly privileged. The Fifth Circuit agreed with the prosecution, and issued this opinion that, among other things, is a rather sharp rebuke of Judge Gilmore’s treatment of the prosecution in the case.

And in the comments to that post:

I watched Judge Gilmore during much of the first Enron Broadband trial and I was absolutely mortified at her lack of professionalism, ability and common intelligence (legal or otherwise). She ran that courtroom like a bad “In Living Color” sketch with a heavy dose of eye rolling, screaming, “talk to the hand” mentality. She is an embarrassment to the justice system and the profession as a whole. She is a living example of why we should never allow lifetime appointments!

Or is she a living example of… fabulosity? What’s wrong with a federal judge demanding respect from those who appear before her? Or with a member of the judiciary (finally) standing up to the executive branch, which has arrogated so much power to itself in recent years?

To Judge Gilmore: Your Honor, go on with your bad self!

Judge Gilmore blasts the Fifth Circuit [Houston’s Clear Thinkers]
Vanessa D. Gilmore bio [FJC]

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