Federal Judges

Judge Gary Sharpe

Do you think there is a child porn “gene”? It’s an interesting scientific question (although I don’t really care, because I don’t believe in genetic determinism). I’m sure that one day science will give us some kind of answer.

But it is not this day. At this point we don’t know if there are any genetic predispositions that explain why sick-ass people are sexually excited by naked children.

This limit in our scientific understanding did not stop U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe from sentencing an offender based on his belief about what science will one day uncover.

Well, the power of judges may be inscrutable, but it’s not absolute. They can’t make entire sequences of DNA show up on demand. They can’t see into the future. And apparently they can’t keep their sentences from being overturned on appeal when they base their decisions on science that does not exist…

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Padma Lakshmi

* Breast implants linked to cancer, looking awesome. [Associated Press]

* A Russian man is accused of posing as an immigration lawyer and stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from fellow countrymen. Police say they knew he was lying when he began doing bizarre, and ridiculously obvious, things with Oreos. [Sun-Sentinel]

* You know how I know President Obama’s latest nominee to the S.D.N.Y, J. Paul Oetken, is gay? Because this article says so. Bonus: Lat quotes! [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* “Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is treating her baby’s dad like a bottom feeder.” [New York Post]

* Allen “The Ponz” Stanford was found incompetent to stand trial. Aaaaaayyyyyy *thumbs* [Reuters]

* Before the rampage, Jared Lee Loughner performed internet searches on famous assassins, the death penalty, solitary confinement, and law firm bonuses. I think that’s right. [New York Times]

* A Wisconsin attorney was sentenced to four years in prison on his 40th birthday, which reminds me of one of my favorite Onion articles. [Minneapolis Star Tribune]

* Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who wants to moonlight as an attorney, isn’t saying state salaries are too low. He’s just saying. [Bloomberg]

[N]eedless to say, I have not read the nineteenth edition. I have dipped into it, much as one might dip one’s toes in a pail of freezing water. I am put in mind of Mr. Kurtz’s dying words in Heart of Darkness — ‘The horror! The horror!’ — and am tempted to end there.

— Judge Richard Posner, in a scathing Yale Law Journal review of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed.).

(For additional discussion and funny excerpts, see Paul Horwitz, Ilya Somin, and Eugene Volokh.)

Who knew that working for a conservative think tank paid so well?

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Virginia Thomas, the politically active wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, earned over $680,000 over five years while working at the Heritage Foundation. That’s pretty nice scratch.

A possible problem: according to Common Cause, Clarence Thomas never reported the income in his federal financial disclosures…

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The record in such cases, although voluminous, often fails to precisely reflect the relationships between the parties and to include the documents (particularly with respect to who owns the loan) that are necessary to evaluate the claims. Such failures are a disservice to both the parties and the court, and, in other circumstances, may undermine a party’s claim or defense. Were I forced to delve fully into the merits of this case, I am not certain that it would be possible to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

— Chief Judge Joseph Goodwin (S.D.W.Va.), writing about recent cases involving the home loan industry, in Delebreau v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC.

Investigators looking at surveillance footage from the Tucson attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords say that Chief Judge John Roll died a hero. According to the New York Times, the video shows that Judge Roll apparently died while helping to save the life of Ronald Barber, a Giffords staffer. Barber, who was shot twice while standing near Congresswoman Giffords, survived the attack and has since left the hospital.

The descriptions of Judge Roll’s actions during the shooting are amazing…

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Judge Wesley Brown will be 104 in June.

When I clerked on the Ninth Circuit years ago, one of the judges on the court at the time was extremely old — and didn’t seem very “with it.” His law clerks seemed to take on a large amount of responsibility. One of his clerks that year, a law school classmate of mine I’ll call “Mary,” would negotiate over the phone with Ninth Circuit judges over how particular cases should come out — a responsibility well beyond the legal research and opinion drafting done by most clerks.

On one occasion, a vote on whether to rehear a case en banc emanated not from the judge’s chambers account, but from Mary’s personal email account. Even more embarrassingly, it was written not on behalf of the judge or the chambers, but in the first person: “I vote YES to rehearing en banc.” A law school classmate of mine who was also clerking for the Ninth that year remarked, “I thought only judges did that. When did Mary get her presidential commission?”

Some of us jokingly referred to that chambers as Weekend at Judgie’s. What appeared to be going on over there reminded us of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s famous quip to his clerks: “If I die, prop me up and keep voting!”

We joked about this delegation of Article III authority to a newly minted law school graduate. But as Joseph Goldstein suggests, in a very interesting article just published by Slate and ProPublica, the issue of superannuated jurists is no laughing matter….

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Thanks to all the Above the Law readers who responded to the request from Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Chief Judge Kozinski sends his gratitude, along with an update….

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The Honorable Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, has a favor to ask of Above the Law readers….

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What is not thought of or talked about relative to these threats and follow-up protection is the effect on a judge’s ability to think about the cases and the law. With gun toting Deputy Marshals, good people all, within arm’s reach, it’s pretty hard to think about anything other than security. The whole experience is very distracting and the public suffers in the sense that the judge can’t do his/her best in such circumstances.

— a federal trial judge, commenting to Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic about how judges have been affected by the recent killing of Chief Judge John Roll (D. Ariz.).

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