Ignorance has never stopped a federal judge from expressing an opinion.
– Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit, after professing limited knowledge of antitrust law during a humorous speech about (you guessed it) antitrust law, at the annual dinner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute last night.
[D]efendants oppose the motion on the grounds that the plaintiffs have failed to specify what their job duties are, and so have not established that they and the other members of the proposed class are similarly situated. This is a ridiculous argument.
The Court has not spent her life under a toadstool — I know what waiters, busboys and bartenders do when they go to work.
Ed. note: We’ve given your our views on why cameras should be allowed inside federal courtrooms. But, as bloggers, we’re not as directly affected by the current ban on cameras in court as many other journalists.
Today we bring you a guest post from a television reporter who covers the courts. Daryl Huff has been a television reporter, producer and assignments manager in Honolulu for 30 years. He has primarily covered courts, government and politics for KITV, the ABC affiliate, since 1990.
We met Huff last month in Honolulu at the District of Hawaii judicial conference, when we served together on a panel about media and the courts. We were impressed by his thoughts on cameras in the courtroom and asked him to contribute this guest post.
By Daryl Huff
There’s a fascinating trial coming up in U.S. District Court in Honolulu. It’s about an eccentric rocket scientist whose house on Maui is shaped like a B-2 Bomber. He’s accused of selling secrets to China.
I just wish I could do stories about it.
Why can’t I? After all, I’ve been covering courts or public affairs for more than 30 years. I’ve won awards. I get invited to conferences. I have basic skills and experience. I have a press pass, and my company has a large audience.
But I report for television — KITV4 News, the ABC affiliate in Honolulu, to be specific. I don’t cover many stories in federal district court anymore, because the court won’t let me bring in my tools: a camera and microphone.
That’s the question posed by Linda Greenhouse, former Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, in an extremely interesting post on the Opinionator blog. In attempting to address “why other countries [don't] suffer from the same toxic confirmation battles that we do,” she first notes that other nations don’t give their judges life tenure:
High-court judges [in other countries] typically serve for a single nonrenewable term of 9 to 12 years — a period during which Supreme Court justices in the United States are just getting warmed up. These shorter terms ensure frequent turnover and allay fears about a party in power being able to lock up the court for decades through the fortuity of a large number of vacancies; each vacancy naturally carries less weight.
But we’re guessing that Greenhouse, whose politics tend to fall on the left side of the aisle, actually likes having life-tenured judges who are completely unaccountable insulated from the political process. So she tosses out another idea….
We have a special place in our hearts for Judge Denny Chin (S.D.N.Y.). Last year, we dressed up as Judge Chin for Halloween (see right). Alas, even though Judge Chin has presided over some major matters — such as the Bernie Madoff case, in which he gave the Ponzi schemer 150 years, and the Google Books settlement talks — we were still mistaken for Judge Lance Ito by several people.
But Judge Chin’s profile is about to increase. Earlier today, by a vote of 98-0, Judge Chin was elevated to the Second Circuit.
The Asian-American community is thrilled. From one Asian ATL reader: “He was confirmed! Amazing and historic!”
But there have been Asian-American federal judges before. And there may be again in the not-too-distant future, depending on what happens to the controversial nomination of Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu.
What is history-making about Judge Chin’s elevation?
We first heard about this months ago — back in September, from another speaker at the Lavender Law conference. We didn’t mention it at the time, though, since we’re not that comfortable outing people.
But now that the cat has been let out of the bag — or closet, as the case may be — by the mainstream media, let’s… go there. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
The biggest open secret in the landmark trial over same-sex marriage being heard in San Francisco is that the federal judge who will decide the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, is himself gay.
Many gay politicians in San Francisco and lawyers who have had dealings with Walker say the 65-year-old jurist, appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, has never taken pains to disguise — or advertise — his orientation.
Shocking? Not exactly. Judge Walker is a professionally successful white male, with great job security and a six-figure income, who’s in his sixties — and has never been married. A confirmed bachelor, if you will. Who lives in San Francisco. Umm, yeah.
(On the other hand, we hear His Honor’s favorite drink is a Maker’s Mark Manhattan — a fairly butch beverage, despite the maraschino cherry. We’ll stick with our cosmos, thank you very much.)
So this brings us to the question that Ashby Jones posed over at the WSJ Law Blog earlier today: If Judge Walker is gay, what should we make of that fact?
The House Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved four articles of impeachment against U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous. The panel, consisting of 23 Democrats and 16 Republicans, sent the articles to the full House of Representatives.
A vote by a majority of the 435-member House to impeach Porteous, 63, would result in a Senate trial on whether to remove the New Orleans judge, a 1994 appointee of President Bill Clinton, from office. It takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove a judge from what otherwise is a lifetime appointment.
A disclaimer: we’re not sure how we feel about Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal constitutional challenge brought by superlawyers Ted Olson and David Boies to Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. We are somewhat sympathetic to Jonathan Adler’s position: gay marriage makes perfect sense as a policy matter, but the constitutional case is less clear. (We suspect that Elie may be more supportive of the Perry litigation and its ultimate objective; see here.)
We do know, however, how we feel about cameras in the courtroom: we are strongly in favor of them. For more, see our Washington Post piece. The right to an open and public trial is guaranteed by the Constitution, and understanding what’s going on in our courts is a crucial part of democratic self-governance.
The standard for closing a courtroom to the public is very high, and justifiably so. We the People should be allowed to know — and to hear, and to see — what is transpiring within our courts. After all, these are our laws being interpreted, our rights being adjudicated, and our taxpayer dollars at work.
And in this age of videoconferencing, YouTube, blogging, and Twitter, the distinction between physical and virtual attendance of court proceedings is becoming increasingly artificial. If we can read reporter Dan Levine’s real-time tweets about the Prop 8 trial, or if we can read blog posts published during breaks about what just transpired in open court, why shouldn’t we be able to watch the proceedings ourselves, in livestreaming video? Or, if we can’t watch real-time video, why can’t we watch video posted online after the fact?
This is why we are so disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to kill, at least for now, efforts to broadcast the Prop 8 trial. This is why we strongly support the efforts of Chief Judge Vaughn Walker (N.D. Cal.), who is presiding over the trial, and Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (9th Cir.), who is spearheading a Ninth Circuit pilot project providing for cameras in the courtroom, to offer some wider broadcast of the proceedings (whether on YouTube, an official court website, or even just to federal courthouses outside San Francisco).
More discussion, plus a READER POLL, after the jump.
On Monday, November 16, we attended an interesting talk by Judge Gerard Lynch, formerly of the Southern District of New York and now on the Second Circuit. He spoke before the Regis Bar Association, a group of lawyers and law students who are graduates of our shared alma matter — Regis High School, an all-boys Catholic school run by the Jesuits, located here in New York.
As one would expect from a federal judge, especially one in a high-powered city like NYC, Judge Lynch has an amazing résumé. He graduated first in his class from Regis, first in his class from Columbia College (1972), and first in his class from Columbia Law School (1975). He clerked for Judge Wilfred Feinberg on the Second Circuit, followed by Justice William Brennan on the Supreme Court. Prior to his appointment to the district court in 2000, Judge Lynch was a law professor at Columbia, worked in private practice (at a firm that would later become part of Covington & Burling), and served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the legendary U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District.
In September, Judge Lynch was confirmed to the Second Circuit by a vote of 94-3. He was the first Obama appointee to be confirmed to a circuit court.
Judge Lynch began his remarks to the RBA by discussing his background. He explained that he came from working-class roots and was the first in his family to graduate from college. He also noted that government lawyers and judges don’t make very much money: “As a public servant, first-year associates at large law firms have generally made more than I have,” he observed, before adding: “Thanks to the recession, that’s changed.”
(A federal district judge, which Judge Lynch was until his recent elevation, earns $169,300 a year — a bit above the New York starting salary of $160,000. As a circuit judge, he now earns $179,500. If Judge Lynch were to become Justice Lynch — he is sometimes mentioned on Supreme Court shortlists, although being a 58-year-old white male doesn’t help — he would earn $208,100, as an associate justice. Despite many years earning a government salary, Judge Lynch has done well for himself; his financial disclosures reveal a net worth of $1.6 million, with zero debt.)
Judge Lynch described being a trial judge as “the greatest job you can have.” Find out why, after the jump.
We received this info last night, from several readers in attendance. One of them wrote:
For the patent nerds out there, including me, Chief Judge Paul R. Michel of the Federal Circuit is retiring effective May 31, 2010. Just personally announced it at the FCBA annual dinner. Sent his resignation letter to Obama this morning.
[H]e said he’s motivated to retire instead of moving to senior judge status because he hates the muzzle that comes with being an Article III judge. He wants to lobby. He feels pretty strongly that certain parts of the pending patent reform act are outrageous.
When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
The traditional job application and interview process can be impersonal, and applicants often struggle to present themselves as more than just the sum of their GPAs, alma maters, and previous work history. ATL has partnered with ViewYou to help job seekers overcome this challenge. ViewYou NOW Profiles offer a unique way for job seekers to make a personal, memorable connection with prospective employers: introduction videos. These videos allow job candidates to display their personalities, interpersonal skills, and professional interests, creating an eDossier to brand themselves to potential employers all over the world. Check it out today!