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Some Federal Judicial Congratulations — and a Bit of Trivia

Judge Paul Watford

Congratulations to the newest member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Honorable Paul J. Watford. On Monday, Watford, currently a 44-year-old partner at the super-elite Munger Tolles & Olson, was confirmed to the federal bench. The vote was 61-34, and it came after a bit of drama in the Senate.

It’s surprising that Watford’s nomination was so contentious, given that he has a number of backers from the right side of the aisle. As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, “[h]is supporters included conservative UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh, who has described Watford as brilliant and ideologically moderate, and attorney Jeremy Rosen, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the conservative Federalist Society” (and a noted appellate lawyer, who has appeared before in these pages).

That’s not all. Watford clerked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, one of a handful of prominent conservative or libertarian judges on the (generally liberal) Ninth Circuit. If you look at the ranks of former Kozinski clerks, you’ll see many members in good standing of the vast right-wing conspiracy (and some who are not, like Paul Watford — who went on to clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and was nominated to the Ninth Circuit by a Democratic president).

Now that the handsome Watford has joined his superhottie boss on the bench, we have a trivia question: Who is the circuit judge with the most former law clerks to join him on the Court of Appeals during his lifetime?

Chief Judge Kozinski is certainly in the running. An AK clerk informed me:

[On Monday], we in chambers watched excitedly as the Senate confirmed former Kozinski clerk Paul Watford to the Ninth Circuit. Judge Watford is the third Kozinski clerk confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, alongside Judges Sandra Ikuta of the Ninth Circuit and Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit, and the fourth Kozinski clerk confirmed to the federal bench, alongside Judge Mark Holmes of the U.S. Tax Court.

With Judge Watford’s rise in the ranks of the Kozinski dynasty, we believe Chief Judge Kozinski is not only the reigning male superhottie of the federal judiciary, but also the circuit judge with the most former law clerks to join him on the Court of Appeals during his lifetime. A new contest may be in order. Perhaps your readers can dig up some competition.

In the category of circuit judges with the most law clerks eventually confirmed to the Court of Appeals, it appears Judge Henry Friendly may be the current record-holder, but Chief Judge Kozinski and his clerks are still young and plan to far out-distance Judge Friendly.

According to Judge Friendly’s Wikipedia entry, at least six of his law clerks went on to serve as federal appellate judges — including the current Chief Justice of the United States, John G. Roberts Jr. (who took fifth place in the judicial superhotties contest).

Judge Friendly served on the Second Circuit. Of his six clerks turned judges, only one — Judge Pierre Leval — joined him on that same court. Three former Friendly’s employees — Chief Justice Roberts, Judge Merrick Garland, and Judge A. Raymond Randolph — served on an arguably more august court, the Most Holy D.C. Circuit (praised be its name).

Chief Judge Kozinski, in contrast, has multiple ex-clerks serving with him on the same court. Of his four clerks turned judges, two of them — Judge Ikuta and Judge Watford — sit on the Ninth. (And they don’t always agree with their former boss; see, e.g., Judge Ikuta’s delicious dissent — or partial concurrence and partial dissent, to be more precise — in the Roommate.com case, closely watched by those of us in online media.)

Readers, what other circuit judges are you aware of who have “fed” their former clerks into the federal judiciary? Or who serve alongside their ex-clerks?

I can think of a few. Back in 2005, writing at my first blog, Underneath Their Robes, I observed:

The phenomenon of former law clerks serving alongside their judges happens with some regularity on the circuit courts. There’s Samuel Alito and Leonard Garth on the Third Circuit, Eric Clay and Damon Keith on the Sixth Circuit, and Diane Sykes and Terence Evans on the Seventh Circuit. The Ninth Circuit has at least three such pairings: Richard Clifton and the late Herbert Choy, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and James Browning, and superhottie Kozinski and then-Judge Kennedy.

(Of course, some things have happened over the intervening years. Judge Alito became Justice Alito, Judge Evans passed away, and Judge Browning passed away.)

If you know of either (1) other circuit judges with multiple ex-clerks who are now judges themselves, or (2) other circuit judges who serve alongside their former clerks, please note them in the comments or email us.

Congratulations to Judge Watford on his well-deserved confirmation. It shouldn’t come as a shock — he has an amazing résumé, which we’ve reprinted on the last page of this post — but it was looking dicey for a while, due to partisan wrangling. And congratulations to Chief Judge Kozinski on the ascension of another one of his clerks to the federal bench.

In other federal judicial congratulations aimed at the Ninth Circuit, I’d like to congratulate my former boss, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, on (1) his recent vindication by the Supreme Court and (2) the hanging of his portrait in Portland’s beautiful, historic Pioneer Courthouse. The portrait hanging took place at a special session of the Ninth Circuit — presided over by none other than Chief Judge Kozinski, and attended by several other circuit judges.

(I had hoped to attend the ceremony, which took place on May 10. Alas, work intervened. Dewey — or did we — have a big story to cover? Oh yes we do.)

That’s it for federal judicial news. For something less newsworthy but just as fun, hard-core Kozinski groupies can find out how His Honor is spending Memorial Day weekend, on the next page….

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