This year we decided to dress up as Judge Denny Chin (S.D.N.Y.), recently nominated by President Obama to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. If you’re a criminal, Judge Chin can be quite frightening — he sentenced Bernie Madoff to a whopping 150 years.
And where did we get the idea for our costume? ATL comments (see #2 and #17).
A slideshow of photos showing us in our Judge Chin costume, after the jump.
Given those credentials, we were surprised that he would file one of the craziest motions we’ve come across here at Above The Law.
From the U.S. District Court of Arizona:
It is a motion in a case that Tajudeen Oladiran and his wife filed against Suntrust Bank for racketeering. We gather from the motion that Oladiran was not pleased with the ruling by “the Dishonorable Susan R. Bolton” (as she’s identified in the caption). Oladiran wrote: “I just read your Order and I am very disappointed in the fact that a brainless coward like you is a federal judge.”
A lesson on how not to address the court, after the jump.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is not really retired yet. “I am more busy in retirement than before,” she told Above the Law in a recent interview. One of her myriad projects is Our Courts, a non-profit organization that develops Web-based games to teach seventh- and eighth-graders about government. We spoke with Justice O’Connor recently for our piece for the Washington Post reviewing the games.
We had hoped to actually play the games with her, but it turns out she’s not much of a gamer. Not being the computer type, she hasn’t actually played the Web-based games herself. “I watched young people play it. They have a lot of fun. They’re actively engaged. I think it’s very exciting,” she told us.
Justice O’Connor has been touring the country to promote the games. She even stopped in to chat with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. We got to catch up with her via conference call last month. We rung her up at One First Street — like some retired Biglaw partners, retired SCOTUS justices get to keep an office. After her secretary connected us, Justice O’Connor answered the phone: “Sandra Day O’Connor.”
We discovered that O’Connor is adamant about bringing an end to the election of judges in America. Read more from our interview, after the jump.
Last week, we wrote about federal judge Stephen Larson’s decision to step down from the bench because of unrequited salary longings. He said his salary of $169,300 was not enough to support his family. We’re skeptical of a six-figure salary not being enough to support a family, but Larson does have seven kids and lives in Los Angeles, so it may not be entirely ridiculous.
Plus, his salary would be much more likely to keep pace with seven future college tuition bills if he were making the big bucks as a Biglaw partner. His resignation led us to ask if judges really are underpaid. We threw the question to you via a poll. ATL readers were torn: 52% of voters said judges are underpaid, while 48% of voters said they’re not underpaid.
Ashby Jones at the WSJ Law Blog weighed in on judicial pay (and recounted a story about how a judge screwed him over when he was a law student interviewing for clerkships). Jones points out:
[I]t’s unreasonable, in all likelihood, to expect that federal judges should make what the average BigLaw partner makes. But it also strikes me as unfortunate that the federal bench should lose Larson, who presided over the recent dispute between Mattel and MGA Entertainment over the rights to the Bratz doll (and, incidentally, a judge I’ve heard to be exceptionally hard-working) over financial issues.
If judges were to make more, how much are we talking? The SCOTUS justices make just over $200,000, with John Roberts raking in $217,400. Should all judges be making that much? It is public service — are the rewards of respect and being called “your honor” enough to make up for the salary shortfall?
Federal judges have been complaining about their salaries for years now, but all they’ve managed to get recently is a small cost of living increase.
Federal judge Stephen Larson of the Central District of California is taking a stand on the issue — by quitting. From the National Law Journal:
U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson of the Los Angeles-based Central District of California said in a prepared statement on Sept. 15 that the failure by Congress to increase judicial salaries made it impossible to support his seven children, all under age 18.
“The costs associated with raising our family are increasing significantly, while our salary remains stagnant and, in terms of purchasing power, is actually declining,” he said. “The short of it is that I know I must place my family’s interest, particularly the future of my children, ahead of my own fervent desire to remain a federal judge.”
We can see where he’s coming from. Larson, 44, hasn’t seen big(law) money since 1991, when he was a second-year associate at O’Melveny & Myers. Since then he’s been in public service, as an assistant U.S. attorney and a judge.
We have so many questions!
Where is he heading to make the big bucks? If O’Melveny’s taking him back, we hope Larson is aware of the firm’s five-year plan, and the need for Biglaw partners “to produce — and sacrifice — in order to help firms thrive in the future.” (Our words, not theirs.)
The current New Yorker has an interesting piece by Jeffrey Toobin on President Obama’s judicial picks. Toobin took part in a live chat about the piece at NewYorker.com right nowearlier todayif you’re interested. (Try not to crash their website.). UPDATE: The chat’s quite interesting. Toobin reveals why he likes Justice Souter best and answers this young wannabe judge’s question:
11:31 Guest: I’m a 25 year old law student, I want to be a judge, and my roommate smokes pot. How worried should I be? Do you think people will still care when I’m older?
11:32 Jeffrey Toobin: Don’t inhale! I’m kidding. I don’t think it will make a bit of difference. Our president has more or less admitted he was a pretty big pothead in his day, and it’s been a non-issue. Certainly the fact that your roommate smokes — not you — is irrelevant.
Toobin’s piece is available online to non-subscribers here. If you don’t feel like clicking through seven pages, here’s the ATL reader’s digest version:
Aging liberal judges hung on through the Bush era, but once a Dem took over, they were ready to hang up their robes. Additionally, since 2006, Senator Patrick Leahy has prevented Bush’s nominees from getting through the Judiciary Committee. Now vacancies abound in the federal judiciary.
Bush kicked ass in choosing judges; Obama is taking his sweet time. In the first eight months of their respective terms, Bush nominated 52 judges while Obama has chosen 17.
Obama says he’s looking for “experiential diversity” in his judicial nominations: “not just judges and prosecutors but public defenders and lawyers in private practice.” But his first batch of nominees are mainly former judges, like SCOTUS justice Sonia Sotomayor and Indianapolis federal district judge David Hamilton, nominated by Obama to the Seventh Circuit.
More bullets, after the jump.
Apologies for not getting to this story earlier. Sometimes things fall through the cracks around here. (We were offline for much of Thursday and Friday, attending Lavender Law.)
Last week, a federal magistrate judge questioned the propriety of the U.S. Attorney’s Office moving to dismiss a marijuana possession charge against Andrew Sullivan. Yes, thatAndrew Sullivan — the noted political pundit, author, and blogger (and proponent of marijuana legalization).
Judge Collings issued his saucy opinion (PDF) on Thursday. Later that day, the story was broken by The Docket. The case has also been covered by Gawker, Wonkette, and the WSJ Law Blog, among other outlets (links collected below).
So we won’t rehash what you’ve probably already read. But feel free to take our reader poll and to discuss the case in the comments.
A couple of days ago, we heralded the start of clerkship application season. Given the weakness in the legal economy, there should be a lot of people trying to snag a clerkship offer this year.
Today is the day that judges can start calling around and setting up interviews. A tipster reports:
Per the hiring plan, judges can start calling to extend interviews at 10 a.m. today. Thousands of 3Ls across the country are doubtless waiting anxiously by their phones. The whole process obviously will be agonizing …
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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…
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