9th Circuit, Benchslaps, Election 2012, Election Law, Federal Judges, Politics, Stephen Reinhardt

Benchslap of the Day: The District Court Strikes Back

Judge Stephen Reinhardt (left) and Judge Robert Jones

Will 2012 go down as the Summer of Feuding Judges? Over the past few months, we’ve been covering the feud in print between Judge Richard Posner and Justice Antonin Scalia.

And yesterday we wrote about the harsh smackdown by Judge Stephen Reinhardt (9th Cir.) of Chief Judge Robert C. Jones (D. Nevada). Today we’ve got Jones’s rebuttal, which is just as heated. It’s unusual to see a lower-court judge criticizing a judge higher up in the judicial hierarchy, but reverse benchslaps do happen.

How does Judge Jones feel about being called unacceptably arrogant? Let’s just say he responded in kind…

Just yesterday, in his concurrence in Townley v. Miller — a politically charged and time-sensitive case regarding Nevada’s “none of these candidates” ballot option — Judge Reinhardt blasted Judge Jones:

Such arrogance and assumption of power by one individual is not acceptable in our judicial system.

According to Judge Reinhardt, the Republican-appointed Judge Jones was playing procedural games “to evade appellate review” of his decision — a decision perceived by observers as benefiting Republicans.

Judge Jones fired back just 24 hours later, defending himself in a four-page opinion that seems almost like an angry late-night email:

Reinhardt’s separate decision to impugn the integrity and motivation of the undersigned judge, together with his contact to Chambers through the Ninth Circuit Clerks’s Office, was an example of assumption of power by one individual which is not acceptable in our judicial system.

In other words: Hey Reinhardt! I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!

To be honest, Judge Jones’s response felt a little rushed and unedited to me. His order explains and justifies the district court’s handling of the case, including its docketing procedures and reassignment process, in some detail. But the response is repetitive, even for a legal document, and it’s a bit disorganized.

To be fair, this is a time-sensitive issue. Nevada’s ballot printing deadline is tomorrow. But Jones mentions Reinhardt’s “unfortunate” decision to “impugn” his “integrity and motivation” at least three times. More oddly, he seems unsure whether to use the third person or the first person, and he constantly switches between “the undersigned” and “my” — even within the same sentence:

The undersigned was quite surprised when Judge Reinhardt contacted my Chambers through the Ninth Circuit Clerks Office and requested early entry of the order granting preliminary injunction, in light of a preliminary hearing date set by himself on the Defendants Emergency Motion to the Ninth Circuit for Stay Pending Appeal. I am not even sure if Judge Reinhardt was on the motions panel for the month of August, 2012, which panel is designated each month to hear all early motions in a case.


In the words of Judge Mark V. Holmes, “[o]f all the routines in judicial gymnastics, few have a higher degree of difficulty than the reverse benchslap.” But sadly, Judge Jones is no McKayla Maroney. I am not impressed.

I know it sucks to be publicly called to the carpet (and it’s a good thing the ATL commentariat doesn’t technically run things around here, or we all might be in trouble). But Judge Jones sounds a little more wounded than he needs to be in the order, which weakens his rebuttal (at least in my opinion, as a layperson).

I mean, forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown Nevada.

Order Denying as Moot Defendant’s Emergency Motion [U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada]

Earlier: Benchslap of the Day: Trust Judge Reinhardt, He’s An Expert

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