Benchslaps, Federal Judges, Gay, Gay Marriage, Trials

The Benchslap Dispatches: Judge Not Interested In Yale Law Student’s ‘Opinions’

With the death of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan, federal judges are hiring law clerks earlier and earlier in students’ law school careers. We recently wondered — jokingly, but only half-jokingly — whether 1Ls should start applying for clerkships.

So federal judges should be keenly interested in the insights of young legal minds — especially minds being cultivated at the Yale Law School, the nation’s #1 law school (according to both the U.S. News rankings and the Above the Law rankings). Right?

Well, just because a judge wants your advice as a law clerk doesn’t mean he wants to hear from you as an expert witness. A current Yale law student recently learned this lesson the hard way….

Two Detroit-area nurses are currently challenging Michigan’s gay-marriage ban, which the state is defending in court. The Detroit Free Press has this report from the trial:

In a bombshell development, a federal judge just threw out the state’s first witness in Michigan’s gay marriage trial, concluding the Princeton-educated philosophy expert had nothing to offer in this case.

“He’s very eloquent … but right now, all he is offering to us is mainly his opinions,” U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said of the witness. “The court does not believe … that he should be allowed to testify.”

…. The state had planned on having its first witness – Sherif Girgis – on the stand for up to two hours. Prior to getting dismissed, Girgis spent about 20 minutes on the stand listing his credentials, most of which included lecturing and writing academic papers on the philosophical debate surrounding the definition of marriage. He also has written a book, What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense (affiliate link).

Girgis, who is currently pursuing a law degree at Yale and a Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton, is obviously very smart (and pretty cute, too). But Judge Friedman didn’t view Girgis as having relevant expertise, at least not at this stage in his career:

Friedman dismissed the witness following arguments from the plaintiffs side, who noted that Girgis is not a lawyer, child development expert, psychologist or expert in Michigan law. He has no experience in the issues that matter in this case, the plaintiffs argued.

As Ken Mogill, one of the lawyers to the plaintiffs, told Girgis, “The fact is you’re still a student. Someone else is still grading your papers.” Ouch.

So buck up, Benula Bensam. You’re not the only law student a federal judge doesn’t want to hear from.

Judge dismisses state’s first witness in gay marriage trial [Detroit Free Press]
Michigan’s Witness in Gay Marriage Trial Barred [ABC News]
What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense [Amazon (affiliate link)]
Intellectual Diversity and the Legal Academy: Keynote Address [Harvard Federalist Society via YouTube]

Earlier: Unemployed Cardozo Gunner Receives Public Lesson From Jed Rakoff

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