Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit continues to provide us with awesome anecdotes. Back in July, for example, we related a fun story pertaining to his naturalization as an American citizen.
It was an inspiring immigrant story, but it was primarily of historical interest. Cool as it was, it did not have huge relevance to the day-to-day practice of law.
Our latest law-related tale about Chief Judge Kozinski has practical ramifications. California lawyers, you should keep reading; you never know when this knowledge might come in handy.
Also handy: diet tips from His Honor, who has dropped quite a bit of weight lately….
We’ll start with the law-related story, which initially came to us not from Chief Judge Kozinski, but from the attorney involved. Here it is.
“I am an attorney in Pasadena, California and enjoy reading Above the Law. I had an experience recently that I thought you might enjoy and perhaps it would be something you wanted to put up on the site. If not, hopefully you’ll enjoy the story and then move on with your busy day.”
“A new client recently came to my firm with a small problem. He was attempting to file a Certificate of Delayed Report of Birth with the State of New Jersey so he could obtain a birth certificate for himself. The report included an affidavit, but because he is no longer in New Jersey, the instructions stated that the affidavit must be acknowledged by either ‘a judge of any of the United States’ courts’ or ‘a judge of any court having jurisdiction in the place where the affidavit is taken.’ He attempted to go to the Los Angeles County Superior Court by himself to get a judge to acknowledge his signature, but had no luck, so he came to our firm and we offered to help.”
“First, I left messages with the clerk of the nearby branch of the L.A. Superior Court and they went unanswered. Next, I physically went to the Superior Court and got nowhere — the clerks have never heard of such a thing, they don’t want to make a mistake, etc. My pleas go nowhere.”
“So I try a different branch of the Superior Court, and again, I get nowhere. The clerk there tells me, ‘I’ve been here 30 years and have never seen anything like this.’ He won’t even ask a judge about it and won’t let me talk to a judge, just says he can’t help.”
“All I need is any judge for less than five minutes to watch my client sign a piece of paper, and I’m striking out everywhere I turn.”
“Finally, I go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena and talk to one of the clerks. She listens to me (are you taking notes, L.A. County Superior Court?) and says, ‘Let me go ask the judge.’ She comes back and says the judge will do it, but I need to come back with my client. So we set up an appointment for the next day.”
“My client and I arrive [the next day] and meet the clerk. She says the judge will be right down. A few seconds later, Alex Kozinski arrives. Alex Kozinski! The Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit is the judge that was willing to take a moment to acknowledge my client’s signature on a very basic form!”
“I thank Chief Judge Kozinski for making himself available and explain what the affidavit is for. He asks my client to raise his right hand then says, ‘Do you swear that the information contained in this affidavit is true and correct?’ ‘Yes.’ Then they both sign the affidavit and the clerk puts the court’s seal on it. Done.”
“The experience cracked me up. I mean, does it really take the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit to acknowledge a signature on a simple form so a guy can file a Delayed Report of Birth with the State of New Jersey? I left messages and went all over town begging to make an appointment with any judge for the simplest matter, and the only person I can get to do anything is the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit.”
“It was refreshing to see someone like Chief Judge Kozinski so accessible and so willing to do something so small. I was greatly appreciative of his time. However, the experience also does make me wonder why it is so difficult to find a lower level judge to do this kind of thing.”
“So that’s the story. If nothing else, I hope you enjoyed it. Details can be confirmed with Eve Fisher, the clerk I dealt with at the Court of Appeals in Pasadena.”
We reached out to Chief Judge Kozinski, to confirm that it would be okay to run this story (because it’s quite possible that making it public could cause judges of the Ninth Circuit to be inundated with similar requests). Chief Judge Kozinski said it would be fine to run, responding as follows:
How very nice. Of course, feel free to run [the story], but be sure to give credit to Chief Deputy Clerk Eve Fisher, who is the one who came to me with the request and then followed through when the lawyer and the client showed up.
We are very proud of our user-friendly staff in San Francisco, Pasadena, Seattle and Portland. Clerk Molly Dwyer and Circuit and Court of Appeals Executive Cathy Catterson have made it their mission to make the court’s processes transparent and accessible to the public we serve.
This is consistent with my recollection of the Ninth Circuit from the time that I clerked there (for Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, who’s celebrating his 25th year on the bench with a law clerk reunion later this month, by the way). Conservatives like to assail the Ninth Circuit’s decisions, but at least on an administrative level, the Ninth Circuit is a well-run court — especially when you take into account the challenges that arise from its size. (I take no position here on proposals to split the Ninth Circuit, a subject of disagreement between Chief Judge Kozinski and Judge O’Scannlain.)
While I was corresponding with Chief Judge Kozinski, I pointed out how svelte he looked in his “I Am John Galt” video (explanation here, video here). I asked this federal judicial superhottie: “Might you have some diet and fitness tips underneath your robe?”
Judge Kozinski’s response: “Few carbs, less sugar.”
Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time a federal judge has issued a four-word diet plan. See also Judge Denny Chin (2d Cir.), who as a judge on the S.D.N.Y. once wrote, in a footnote to a judicial opinion: “Run more, eat less.”
Sigh. I was hoping for a magic pill that would allow me to eat unlimited french fries and dessert and still lose weight. Being told that I need to exercise more, eat less, and reduce my carb and sugar intake is not very exciting advice.
But if fabulous federal judges can’t overrule the laws of thermodynamics, then neither can we mortals.