Eyes of the Law

stephen williams stephen f williams steven williams judge.jpgIf you, like us, find Supreme Court justice sightings more thrilling than Brangelina spottings, you would have died from excitement at the portrait ceremony for Judge Stephen F. Williams.
Judge Williams is the brilliant former law professor who now sits on the venerated D.C. Circuit. Back in the day, before he assumed senior status, Stephen Williams was one of the biggest feeder judges in Christendom. He fed huge numbers of his clerks into Supreme Court clerkships, with an impressively broad spectrum of justices.
The Williams portrait ceremony was held last Friday. Stuart Buck, a former Williams clerk, offers a detailed report. Here is an excerpt:

Portrait ceremonies are evidently a big deal: I’d never been to one before, but it was probably the most legal talent that I’ve ever seen in one room. The entire D.C. Circuit was there, as were six members of the Supreme Court (all except Souter, Kennedy, and Alito).

There was a person I didn’t recognize sitting between Justices Stevens and Thomas. Judge Laurence Silberman later said in conversation that it was Judge Louis Oberdorfer — a long-time and highly respected district court judge who has to be in his late eighties now. [Ed. note: Judge Oberdorfer was also a feeder judge in his time -- especially impressive given that he's "only" a district court judge.]

Now THAT is an impressive line-up. It’s the federal judicial equivalent of Ed Limato’s Oscar pre-party, a more star-studded event than the Lori Alvino / Matt McGill wedding — and maybe even than the Ted Olson / Lady Booth wedding. (That second comparison turns on how much weight you assign to SCOTUS justices as opposed to other legal luminaries.)
Anyone have pictures from the ceremony? If so, we’d love to see them. You know how we love pictures.
And while we’re on the subject of judicial celebrity sightings, a quick follow-up to our item yesterday about Justice Alito swearing in his former clerk, Alex Acosta, as U.S. Attorney in Miami. David Oscar Markus has a firsthand account of the event, which you can check out at the S.D. Fla. Blog.
Judge Williams’ Portrait [The Buck Stops Here]*
Acosta Sworn In [Southern District of Florida Blog]
Earlier: The Eyes of the Law: Justice Alito Hits South Beach
Lady and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Wedding Photos That Rock
The Eyes of the Law: Ted Olson’s Star-Studded Nuptials
The Eyes of the Law: Wedding Crashers
* The “s” after “Williams'” is missing in the original. Our views on this dispute are set forth here.

alex acosta r alex acosta r alexander acosta.jpgWell, we’re not sure about that part — nor can we confirm or deny whether the justice was sighted in a “banana hammock.”
But we can report that Justice Alito was recently in MIami, where he swore in Alex Acosta (at right), one of his former clerks, as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. From the Miami Herald:

Samuel A. Alito, the U.S. Supreme Court’s newest justice, praised one of his protégés, R. Alexander Acosta, on Wednesday as he swore him in as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

But Alito said that for all his formidable legal talent, Acosta betrayed one ”weakness” when he served as a law clerk in 1994 for the then-federal appellate judge.

”Alex’s knowledge of sports was a little bit lacking,” Alito deadpanned before a standing-room-only gathering of judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers in the historic central courtroom of the Miami federal courthouse.

Alito, a self-professed baseball fan, joked that Acosta probably didn’t know the difference between the Florida Marlins and the Miami Dolphins.

Even if his sports knowledge may be deficient, Acosta is a young superstar of conservative legal circles (as well as “pretty cute,” too). At the tender age of 37, he was nominated by President Bush as Miami’s U.S. Attorney — a position he was already occupying in an acting capacity.
Prior to returning to Miami, where he has deep roots in the city’s Cuban-American community, the brilliant Acosta served as head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. His roughly two-year tenure as Assistant Attorney General was rumored to be somewhat rocky. Acosta’s fairly conservative civil rights agenda apparently did not sit well with some of the more liberal lawyers in the division, who had a different vision of what they’d be doing when they signed up for civil rights work at the Justice Department.
(If you can enlighten us further on these matters, please drop us a line.)
Alito protégé sworn in as U.S. attorney in Miami [Miami Herald via How Appealing]

9th circuit seal ninth circuit.JPGThe Ninth Circuit may be getting slapped around by the Supreme Court lately. (Yeah, what else is new.) But they continue to go about their business. Keep on truckin’, Your Honors!
One of you was kind enough to attend a recent Ninth Circuit sitting — not just any old sitting, but the one graced by that judicial celebrity, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — and send us a detailed report.
That account of the oral argument — plus a bonus judicial sight-ation, and some added commentary from us — appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Eyes of the Law: A Visit to the Ninth Circuit”


scalito antonin scalia samuel alito.JPGDuring the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Samuel A. Alito, some conservatives grumbled about one nickname bestowed upon him: “Scalito.” They argued that it unfairly treated him as a jurisprudential clone of Justice Antonin Scalia, without recognizing his independence as a thinker. Some also viewed the nickname as reflecting anti-Italian prejudice.
We’d like to reclaim the name of “Scalito,” and put it to legitimate use. Let’s turn it into the judicial equivalent of “Bennifer” (the first and best celebrity couple neologism, superior to “Brangelina” or “Vaughniston”). In these pages, we will use “Scalito” to refer to Justices Scalia and Alito whenever they appear in public together — as they did this past weekend.
Approximately 400 people attended a panel discussion on judicial independence, held this past Saturday at the Washington Hilton. The discussion, sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation, featured Justices Scalia and Alito, as well as William S. Sessions, a former FBI director and federal judge, and Lynn A. Battaglia, a Maryland appeals court judge.
Not surprisingly, Justice Scalia stole the show. Accounts of this Article III celebrity sighting focus primarily on his remarks. His main point was to question judicial independence as an absolute virtue: “You talk about independence as though it is unquestionably and unqualifiably a good thing. It may not be. It depends on what your courts are doing.”
Familiar stuff. His remarks about media coverage of the courts were far more amusing:

“The press is never going to report judicial opinions accurately. They’re just going to report, who is the plaintiff? Was that a nice little old lady? And who is the defendant? Was this, you know, some scuzzy guy? And who won? Was it the good guy that won or the bad guy? And that’s all you’re going to get in a press report, and you can’t blame them…. Because nobody would read it if you went into the details of the law that the court has to resolve.”

Sad but true. And Justice Alito echoed some of these sentiments:

Alito complained that people understand the courts through a news media that typically oversimplifies and sensationalizes. He said people’s ability to amplify their comments globally about judges and their opinions on the Internet takes a toll on the judiciary.

“This is not just like somebody handing out a leaflet in the past, where a small number of people can see this,” he said. “This is available to the world. … It changes what it means to be a judge. It certainly changes the attractiveness of a judicial career.”

Justice Alito, are you calling into question the value of writing about judges on the internet? If so, you’re hurting our feelings…
(By the way, if you haven’t done so already, please cast your vote in our poll to find out your Favorite Supreme Court Justice. We’ll close the voting once we have about 1,000 votes, which strikes us as a reliable indicator of ATL reader sentiment. Right now we have a little over 600. To vote, click here. Thanks!)
Scalia Rips Judges on Abortion, Suicide [Associated Press]

ted olson theodore b olson theodore olson.jpgThis past Saturday, October 21, Washington superlawyer Ted Olson and his fiancee, Lady Booth, were married. The wedding ceremony took place at the stunningly beautiful Meadowood resort, in Napa Valley, California.
Olson, a giant of the Supreme Court bar, served as Solicitor General — the federal government’s top lawyer before the Supreme Court — from 2001 to 2004. He’s currently a partner in the elite D.C. office of top-flight firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Olson successfully litigated the landmark 2000 election case, Bush v. Gore, in the Supreme Court. On the losing side: renowned litigator David Boies. But presumably there were no hard feelings, since Boies showed up for the wedding festivities — along with many other legal luminaries.
Some legal celebrity sightings, from the Washington Post’s Reliable Source:

More than 300 guests attended the midafternoon ceremony on the golf course, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, former justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, legal commentators Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, NPR’s Nina Totenberg, legal names such as Robert Bork, Kenneth Starr, David Boise [sic], and Olson’s law partner Bill Kilberg. U.S. Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman performed the ceremony, and Wall Street Journal Publisher Gordon Crovitz served as best man.

This is Booth’s first marriage and Olson’s fourth. The couple will honeymoon in Hawaii.

We hear through the grapevine that the wedding was, not surprisingly, “a great time. It seemed like half of Washington was there!”
Other notable guests: Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, of the Fourth Circuit; Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, of the Ninth Circuit, and his ever-stylish wife, Maura O’Scannlain; Frank Fahrenkopf, former RNC chairman and current gaming industry superlobbyist, with his wife, Mary; current Solicitor General Paul Clement; and conservative pundit Laura Ingraham.
Despite the tremendous collective brainpower of these august guests, we hear that several of them were left scratching their impressive craniums by one wedding detail: the request on the wedding invite for “Napa Casual” attire.
These leading minds of the bench and bar can slice, dice, define and parse the most complex legal terms known to man. But throw two innocent little words at them — “Napa Casual” — and watch them panic.
If only every day could be a court day. Who doesn’t look good in black?
Update: You can check out photographs from the wedding by clicking here.
Napa Nuptials for Olson and His Lady [Washington Post]
Theodore B. Olson, Solicitor General bio [USDOJ.gov]
Theodore Olson [Wikipedia]

david hoffman professor david hoffman.jpgMr. Bashman, don’t despair. ATL did NOT overlook your lunch with Professor David Hoffman, of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law (as you apparently feared).
Come now. Do you really think we’d miss a sighting of two high-profile bloggers — Howard Bashman, of How Appealing, and Dave Hoffman, of Concurring Opinions (at right) — getting their lunch on?
It just took us a little while to find a tipster with the requisite information. Here’s an account of the lunch, courtesy of “A Temple Owl in the Know”:

Celebrity blawg writer Howard Bashman, and the menschily hot Professor Hoffman, dined at the glamorous Temple University Student Center. The even more glamorous Temple University food carts were rendered a bad option due to a pounding rain.

Hoffman appeared to be eating something greasy, but complemented by a lovely side of grapes. Bashman had a dry sandwich and a soda, which he seemed pleased with.

I couldn’t overhear their conversation. But I doubt it was as interesting as the freshmen at the next table talking about their surprisingly eventful weekend in Atlantic City….

Our spies are everywhere. Legal celebrities, misbehave at your peril!
(If you’re disappointed by the starpower of our sighted “celebrities,” you have only yourselves to blame. We rely upon you, our readers — people who actually leave their apartments — to tell us about the famous lawyers and judges you see out in public. Please send us your sightings by email. Thanks.)
Howard Bashman’s Trip to Temple [How Appealing]
Taking Oral Argument to School [Concurring Opinions]
Earlier: The Eyes of the Law: Leading Blawgers at Lunch

national review cover let's roll.jpgWe’re always grateful for legal celebrity sightings for Eyes of the Law, our sightings column. So please keep them coming (by email).
Recent sightings have been rather Washington-centric. So if you spot a famous lawyer, judge, or law-related TV personality outside the Beltway, we’d be especially interested in hearing from you.
Our latest sightings come from the heart of downtown D.C. A tipster reports:

I was hoping to score some Supreme Court justice sight-ations, in addition to miniburgers, at the Charlie Palmer Steakhouse — the venue for the noisy and expensive National Review Online Tenth Anniversary party Wednesday night. But I mostly saw B- and C-listers.

* Is Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney a lawyer? He’s taller than I thought, has a very authoritative voice, and was mobbed by groupies throughout the evening.

We’re not sure of Romney’s bar admissions or whether he’s ever practiced law. But he is a 1975 Harvard Law School grad (see here).

* Ex-Solicitor General Ted Olson, impeccably dressed, apparently alone, didn’t seem to be taking advantage of the open bar the way some other conservatives were doing.

No surprise there; the former SG is a very proper man. We will pay good money for photographs of Ted Olson downing tequila shots at Smith Point.

* Jonah Goldberg’s lawyer wife was probably there, too, but I didn’t see her.
[Ed. note: Is Goldberg's wife, Jessica Gavora, actually a lawyer? We don't believe so. See here and here. But she did work for one -- she was a speechwriter for former Attorney General John Ashcroft.]

Jonah Goldberg took control of the PA system to tell a long, unfunny story about the origin of the phrase ‘winged monkey,’ which I promptly forgot.

Links to additional coverage of the NRO anniversary party are collected below.
National Review 10th Anniversary Party [Right Side Redux]
Romney Warms Hearts Of Conservative Establishment [Hotline On Call]
Huzzah & Horray [The Corner]

lori alvino mcgill matthew mcgill matt mcgill lori alvino.jpgYesterday Lori Alvino and Matthew McGill crushed their competition in Legal Eagle Wedding Watch. And perhaps their margin of victory should have been even larger.
We would have given them extra points had we known about these legal celebrity sightings at their wedding:

Not that Matt McGill and Lori Alvino McGill need more praise from you, but FYI: their wedding was attended by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, for whom Matt clerked back when he was on the D.C. Circuit; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for whom Lori clerked; and Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the D.C. Circuit.

Other guests of note: former Solicitor General Ted Olson, and former D.C. Circuit nominee — and possible Supreme Court nominee — Miguel Estrada. (Both are now partners in the elite D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.)

So, if you think about it, you’re talking about two legitimate Supreme Court justices and, but for the cruel hand of fate, three other contenders for the Court.

WOW. Not much else to say, except: WOW.
If you were a guest at this star-studded gathering, and can offer an eyewitness report on the festivities, please drop us a line. We have so many questions. For example:

Was Chief Judge Ginsburg accompanied by the special lady friend very nice guest he took to the Yankees-Orioles game last year?

Did the abstemious Justice Ginsburg eat any wedding cake?

Did Chief Justice Roberts and Jane Roberts cut the rug at the reception — and if so, how were their moves? Is the Chief ready to appear on Dancing With the Stars?

Enquiring minds want to know!
Weddings & Celebrations: Lori Alvino, Matthew McGill [New York Times]
Earlier: Legal Eagle Wedding Watch: October 1, 2006

macaroni grill.GIFEarlier today, we noted that prominent legal bloggers Howard Bashman, of How Appealing, and Professor Michael Dimino, of PrawfsBlawg, would be having lunch today.
We expressed interest in the details of their meal. And now we have them, courtesy of a Harrisburg reader:

Bashman and Dimino went to — brace yourselves — the Macaroni Grill. Yes, A3G would probably be appalled. But you have to understand that Harrisburg ain’t exactly New York or Paris on the dining front.

As for what they ate, it looked like Bashman had a Caesar salad. Very virtuous of him. Dimino seemed to be enjoying something more exciting, maybe chicken parmigiana or something.

So there you have it — another exciting day in the life of two law bloggers. Maybe you can use this as a ‘celebrity sighting,’ if you’re having a slow day.

As a matter of fact, we are. So thanks!
Earlier: Morning Docket: 10.10.06

st matthews cathedral.jpgOn October 1, before the start of the new Supreme Court Term, the annual Red Mass was held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, in Washington, DC. Held before the opening of the judicial year, the Mass is celebrated “to invoke God’s blessing upon… all protectors and administrators of the Law” (description here).
Tony Mauro of the Legal Times reports on this year’s Red Mass, which was attended by numerous legal celebrities:

By law, the Supreme Court opens its fall term on the first Monday in October.

But by tradition, the Court season begins the day before, with the annual Red Mass celebrated at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, D.C.

At this year’s Oct. 1 mass, four of the five Roman Catholic justices — along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, several other Cabinet members, and dozens of other area judges and public officials — were in the pews.

No sign of President Bush, who did attend the Red Mass in 2005. But plenty of other big names were in the house (of worship):

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who, with his wife, Jane, was active for many years in the Catholic organization that sponsors the mass, was in the front row, as were Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito Jr., the other Catholic on the Court, did not attend, nor did the non-Catholic judges, some of whom have come in the past.

Why was Justice Alito not in attendance? Perhaps he was out of town?
If you know the answer to this question, or if you attended the Mass and can offer an eyewitness account of the proceedings — including sightings of any lower-court judges in attendance — please share your knowledge in the comments (or send us an email).
Seeing Red [Legal Times]
A Judicial SIGHT-ation Tomorrow: The Red Mass [UTR (2005 Red Mass)]
Judicial SIGHT-ations: Federal Judges Busting Out All Over! [UTR (2004 Red Mass)]
The Red Mass Online [St. Thomas More Society]

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