Federal Judges

Andrew Sullivan Andrew M Sullivan Andrew Michael Sullivan.jpgApologies 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, that Andrew 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.


Judge angered by special treatment for Andrew Sullivan [The Docket / MLW]
United States v. Sullivan [PDF] [U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts]
Andrew Sullivan’s Federal Pot Favors [Gawker]
Friendly D.A. Saves Andrew Sullivan From Life Sentence In Gitmo, For Smoking Marijuana [Wonkette]
On Marijuana, a Famous Blogger, and One Skeptical Judge [WSJ Law Blog]

lifeboat to the lifeboats.jpgA 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 …

Who is making calls? Share your boasts and fears in the comments.
Earlier: Clerkship Application Season: Open Thread

lifeboat to the lifeboats.jpgOnce everyone gets back from Labor Day weekend, the craziness known as the clerkship application process will begin. This coming Tuesday is the first date when applications may be received, according to the 2009 Law Clerk Hiring Plan (followed by many but not all federal judges).
It’s become pretty standard to advise law students and lawyers dealing with the awful legal job market to consider clerking. As Harvard Law School told its students, earlier this year:

One option we would like to highlight is a judicial clerkship, which conveniently tends to be for one year, is valued by the full spectrum of legal employers, and is a fantastic job in itself…. Be sure to consider all types of clerkship opportunities, including those at state and specialty courts, because the competition is likely to be fierce this season.

Indeed. This will probably be the most competitive clerkship season in a decade (or longer). Landing a clerkship is easier said than done.
Update: As reported by U.S. News & World Report (via the ABA Journal), some law schools are better than others at sending their graduates into clerkships. The top three: (1) Yale, (2) the University of North Dakota, and (3) Stanford. Check out the full list over here.
Correction: Whoops. It seems that some of that clerkship info is wrong.
It’s not just feeder judge clerkships, or circuit court clerkships, or district court clerkships in hot districts that are tough to land. These days, even district clerkships in so-called “flyover country” require great credentials.
Discussion of hiring standards and timetables, after the jump.

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Hal Turner Harold Turner blogger radio host.jpgWe’ve written before about Hal Turner, the infamous internet radio host who has been charged with threatening three federal judges. This week brings new information about him, from Wired:

A notorious New Jersey hate blogger charged in June with threatening to kill judges and lawmakers was secretly an FBI “agent provocateur” paid to disseminate right-wing rhetoric, his attorney said Wednesday.

Hal Turner, the blogger and radio personality, remains jailed pending charges over his recent online rants, which prosecutors claim amounted to an invitation for someone to kill Connecticut lawmakers and Chicago federal appeals court judges.

But behind the scenes the reformed white supremacist was holding clandestine meetings with FBI agents who taught him how to spew hate “without crossing the line,” according to his lawyer, Michael Orozco.

Unfortunately for him, Turner can’t blame the FBI for the comments that got him in trouble with the law. His claimed involvement with the Bureau ended in 2007, and his alleged threats against the Seventh Circuit judges were made in 2009.
More discussion about Turner’s case — plus comment from one of the threatened jurists, Judge Richard Posner — after the jump.

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Sonia Sotomayor Above the Law small.jpgWhen Justice Sonia Sotomayor needs to work off all the rice, beans and pork she’s consumed, she hits the gym.
Alas, it appears that Her Honor’s Equinox gym membership was canceled, after she apparently refused to show identification when trying to enter the premises. We’re with Justice Sotomayor on this: she’s a frickin’ federal judge, the closest thing this nation has to an aristocracy. Showing ID is for little people!
Sure, Barack Obama showed his birth certificate identification when he visited Equinox health clubs during the campaign. But he’s Article II — ick, having to run for election, how déclassé — and Justice Sotomayor is Article III, fabulous and life-tenured.
Luckily, the SCOTUS has its own gym — replete with a basketball court, aka “the highest court in the land.” And Justice Sotomayor won’t have to worry about being recognized at One First Street (where even the law clerks are recognized on sight by the Supreme Court police).
Sotomayor v. Equinox Fitness: The Case of the Canceled Membership [New York magazine]
(Gavel bang: commenter.)

Kathleen Sullivan Kathleen M Sullivan Stanford Law School.jpgGreetings from the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. We’ve been having a great time schmoozing with federal judicial celebrities, here in lovely (but surprisingly chilly) Monterey.
Yesterday we participated in an excellent panel discussion about the future of journalism, together with some boldface names: Linda Greenhouse (moderator), former Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times; Nina Totenberg, of NPR; Judge Robert Lasnik, chief judge of the Western District of Washington; and Hal Fuson, Executive Vice President, Copley Press. We got to play the role of blogger-barbarian at the gate, which was fun.
Janet Napolitano Secretary Janet Napolitano.jpgWe’ve also enjoyed attending the excellent educational programs and speeches. Two of the early highlights: a review of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recently completed Term, by the noted constitutional law scholar and former Stanford Law School dean, Kathleen Sullivan (top right); and a speech by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (center right). We got to meet both Dean Sullivan and Secretary Napolitano — both of them possible Supreme Court nominees, both of them fabulous — and it was thrilling.
(We even got Secretary Napolitano’s business card. Who knew that Cabinet members got business cards? Does President Obama have a business card?)
We were planning to write up both of these events, until we saw the excellent accounts of Articleman over at dagblog. We refer you to his delightful write-ups (links below).
The Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference: Dean Kathleen Sullivan Speaks on the Supreme Court [dagblog.com]
The Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference: Secretary Napolitano Speaks About Our Security [dagblog.com]
P.S. If you’d like to see our rough notes on Dean Sullivan’s SCOTUS round-up, click here to download (Word document). But these notes are very rough, not converted to polished prose; you’re much better off with Articleman’s elegant summary.

Sonia Sotomayor despondent.jpgIs it sexist to dissect the fashion choices of Judge Sonia Sotomayor during last week’s confirmation hearings? Probably. I don’t remember anybody asking what Sam Alito was trying to convey with his confirmation tie choices.
But Sotomayor was trying to convey something with her choices. We might as well take a look at what message she was trying to get across.
Click the link below for the full Fashionista analysis, by editor Abby Gardner, and reader comments (which you’re free supplement with your own two cents).
Dressing the Part [Fashionista]

Paris Hilton legal trial lawyer law school nude hottie.jpgDown in Miami, celebrity heiress Paris Hilton is charming the robes off of Chief Judge Federico Moreno (S.D. Fla.), who is hearing a film contract dispute in which she’s the defendant. Reports Davis Markus:

Paris Hilton is on the stand. And Judge Moreno is getting in the act. In one exchange, Moreno was puzzled by the title of Hilton’s current reality show, “My New BFF.” “What does that mean?” he said. After Hilton gave the full title “Paris Hilton’s My New Best Friend Forever,” the judge remarked “This will be my best case forever.” Without missing a beat, Hilton replied “You’re my best judge forever.”

Flirting with the judge? Well, this is a bench trial — and Paris is a trial lawyer in the making. Plaintiff’s counsel should be on the lookout for any ex parte contact between His Honor and Her Hotness.
Read more about the trial over at the Southern District of Florida Blog, which has been covering the proceedings quite closely.
Best blog post forever [Southern District of Florida Blog]
Paris Hilton insists she plugged sorority movie [AP]
Earlier: The American Legal System: We’ll Always Have Paris

Kozinski.jpgSomeone’s July 4th weekend is off to a good start. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, has been cleared of misconduct by the panel of Third Circuit judges that was tasked with investigating him. As you may recall, Chief Judge Kozinski called for an investigation of himself, after it was revealed that he had a “website” — which wasn’t really a website, for reasons previously explained by the judge’s wife, Marcy Tiffany — containing some sexually explicit material.

The Third Circuit Judicial Council’s unanimous opinion, authored by Chief Judge Anthony Scirica, is available here (PDF). It was actually filed on June 5, but only made public today. It’s thorough and lengthy, weighing in at 38 pages, and describes in detail the extensive investigation conducted by the council (with the assistance of outside lawyers, from Dechert and Morgan Lewis, and a technology consultant).

To those with a deeper familiarity with the facts of the case, as opposed to just the headlines, Chief Judge Kozinski’s vindication is not surprising. The judge violated no law; rather, the “website” — actually just a private family file server, although imperfectly secured for a period of time, as explained in the opinion — was a personal matter unrelated to his judicial duties. To the extent that the (overblown) public controversy created a problem in an obscenity trial that Judge Kozinski was presiding over at the time, any problem was obviated when the judge recused himself. And let’s not forget that the whole controversy was originally kicked up by a disgruntled litigant, Cyrus Sanai, who tried peddling the story for months before someone finally bit — and who “has been targeting Kozinski for years,” as noted by Ted Frank.

So congratulations, Judge Kozinski, on putting this matter behind you. We look forward to catching up with you at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference later this month.

A few updates and links, after the jump.

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Thumbnail image for John Ensign Senator John Ensign.jpgRemember the Ninth Circuit Curse? We wrote about it back in 2007, noting that “anyone who tries to mess with the Mighty Ninth eventually finds himself (or herself) in deep doo-doo.” Several politicians who have advocated splitting the Ninth Circuit — a sprawling court that can be challenging to administer, to be sure — have found themselves in some form of trouble or another. E.g., Senators Larry Craig, Ted Stevens, and Lisa Murkowski.
Now they’re joined by another. Although his sex scandal is being overshadowed by that of another Republican politician, Nevada Senator John Ensign (pictured) is watching his popularity plummet, after he admitted to an affair with an ex-staffer (who was once on the Ensign payroll, along with her husband). He may face an investigation into his conduct.
If anyone was going to fall victim to the Ninth Circuit Curse, it would be Senator Ensign. As noted on his website, “Senator Ensign has… taken the lead on legislation to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.” Not only did he push hard for splitting the circuit, but he actually testified in support of the split, at the time of the last big push for dividing the court.
The full tally of victims, after the jump.

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