Big news for both the federal bench and legal academia: Chief Judge David F. Levi, of the Eastern District of California, has been picked as the next dean of Duke Law School.
If approved by the trustees, Levi will replace Dean Katharine Bartlett on July 1. Here’s the official press release.*
Chief Judge David Levi is one of the most highly-regarded district judges in the entire federal judiciary — and this should come as no surprise, given his pedigree. The 55-year-old judge is a Harvard College and Stanford Law grad, former Ninth Circuit clerk, and member of the Elect (OT 1982/Powell).
Legal genius runs in the Levi family. David Levi is the son of the late Edward Levi, former Attorney General under President Ford (and recently in the news in the wake of President Ford’s passing; he recommended Justice Stevens for the SCOTUS). As the WSJ Law Blog points out, David Levi’s older brother is also a high-powered lawyer: John Levi, a partner at Sidley & Austin.
When we clerked on the Ninth Circuit, we worked on an appeal from a decision of then-Judge Levi (he became Chief Judge in 2003). It was
a bizarre an interesting case involving a transsexual ex-prison inmate, one Torey Tuesday South, who filed a civil action against California prison officials. She alleged that the officials improperly cut off her sex hormones (which she had been taking since she was a teenage boy). The officials asserted qualified immunity.
The record on appeal was
really weird highly unusual. It included quasi-soft-porn photographs of Torey Tuesday South in various unusual positions, designed to showcase certain parts of her anatomy. It also included materials that gave us a crash course in gender dysphoria.
We’ll spare you the details; if you’re curious, you can look up the decision on Westlaw. In the end, Chief Judge Levi’s decision to allow the case to move forward was affirmed. The factual findings and legal reasoning he provided in support of his ruling were impeccable.
In his new role as dean of Duke Law School, David Levi will surely grapple once again with issues of transsexuality. But the questions presented will be less thorny. For example: Can transexuals use both the male and female bathrooms in the law school (as they can in the New York subway)?
The Duke deanship is an exciting new opportunity for one of our nation’s most distinguished jurists. Congratulations, Your Honor!
Food for thought: Professor Orin Kerr wonders: Is Chief Judge Levi, regarded by both liberals and conservatives as a fair and thoughtful jurist, the kind of Supreme Court nominee who could win over Democratic senators?
David Levi is only 55 years old. He’s a moderate conservative with 16 years of judicial experience, as well as a civil procedure guru. Now he’s adding another feather to his cap: the deanship of a prestigious law school. If he steers clear of controversy as dean, he’s certainly a SCOTUS possibility.
* From the Duke alum who sent us the press release: “I can speak for many of my fellow Duke Law alums when I say good riddance to the former dean, Kate Bartlett.”
Update: Some Duke alumni dissent from this assessment of Dean Bartlett. For further discussion, see the comments.
Federal Judge David F. Levi selected as Dean of Duke Law School [Duke Law School]
Duke Law School Selects Judge David Levi as Dean [WSJ Law Blog]
Wonderful news for Duke Law School, but a sad loss of a very talented judge [How Appealing]
David F. Levi bio [FJC]
Ex-Inmate’s Suit Advances [Sacramento Bee]
Transsexual inmate mistreated, court says [Sacramento Bee]
More on 100-0 Nominees [Volokh Conspiracy]
- 9th Circuit, David Levi, Duke Law School, Federal Judges, Gender, Law School Deans, Law Schools, Orin Kerr, SCOTUS, SCOTUS Potential, Sex, Supreme Court, Supreme Court Clerks, Weirdness
Big news for both the federal bench and legal academia: Chief Judge David F. Levi, of the Eastern District of California, has been picked as the next dean of Duke Law School.
- A. Raymond Randolph, Abner Mikva, Adam Liptak, Benchslaps, D.C. Circuit, David Sentelle, Federal Judges, Harry Edwards, Judith Rogers, Laurence Silberman, Patricia Wald, Vicious Infighting
Fun news CAN break over a holiday weekend. Check out this Times article (by the indefatigable Adam Liptak, a Yale Law School alum):
A divided panel of the [exceedingly powerful] United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will soon decide an important case concerning detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rejected a friend-of-the-court brief submitted in the case by [seven] retired [federal] judges. Two former chief judges of the court were among those rebuffed.
The unsigned majority decision, for Judges David B. Sentelle and A. Raymond Randolph, said the brief violated a 1982 advisory opinion from a committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is the administrative and policy-making body of the federal court system.
“Judges should insure that the title ‘judge’ is not used in the courtroom or in papers involved in litigation before them to designate a former judge,” the advisory opinion said.
Translation: :”Former judges, you’re not such hot s***. You’re nothing but lawyers with frustrated gavel fetishes.”
The brief was rejected over the dissent of Judge Judith Rogers:
Judge Judith W. Rogers dissented. She said the 1982 advisory opinion was meant to address situations in which former judges acting as lawyers are referred to by the honorific title “Judge.” That practice, if allowed in court, could improperly influence juries, confuse people and make parties to lawsuits lose confidence in the judicial system.
But the situation here, with former judges submitting an appellate brief on their own behalf and with the government’s consent, is different, Judge Rogers wrote. “Indeed, denying the unopposed motion for leave to file may itself create an appearance of partiality,” she wrote.
Liptak points out that (1) Judge Sentelle and Judge Randolph, the judges in the majority, were appointed by Republicans (Reagan and Bush I, respectively); (2) Judge Rogers is a Clinton appointee; and (3) two of the former D.C. Circuit chief judges on the brief, Abner J. Mikva and Patricia M. Wald, were appointed by Carter.
So was the dissing of the brief politically motivated?
Judge Mikva doesn’t think so — but ascribes the decision to even cattier reasons:
Mr. Mikva said the rejection of his brief was motivated by personal animus, not politics. “It’s not political at all,” he said in an interview. “This was clearly aimed at me.”
The judges in the majority, Mr. Mikva said, were furious with him because he opposed allowing judges to accept free trips to resorts for seminars sponsored by private groups.
“They’re so close to retirement age,” Mr. Mikva said of the judges in the majority. “They really should grow up.”
OUCH. Boy do we miss the good old days on the D.C. Circuit!
Pull up a chair, kiddies, and listen to our tale. Back when Abner Mikva was Chief Judge, from 1991 to 1994, the D.C. Circuit went through a period that judicial historians refer to as The Golden Age of Bench-Slappery.
Conservatives and liberals were at each other’s throats — almost literally. Abner Mikva didn’t get along with several of his more conservative colleagues, including David Sentelle and Laurence H. Silberman. During one heated argument, Laurence Silberman reportedly said to Abner Mikva, “If you were 10 years younger, I’d be tempted to punch you in the nose.” How delicious!
Sadly, the Golden Age couldn’t last forever. In 1994, Chief Judge Mikva resigned to become White House Counsel under President Bill Clinton. He was replaced by Chief Judge Harry T. Edwards.
The famously cantankerous Harry Edwards — who once asked a lawyer at oral argument, “Counsel, are you shitting me?” — raised hopes that the Reign of Bitchiness would continue at the D.C. Circuit. But as it turned out, Chief Judge Edwards actually emphasized collegiality during his reign. And the D.C. Circuit — an unfathomably prestigious court, baby steps away from the Supremes — has never been the same.
(For some excellent perspectives on the controversy over the spurned brief, check out this VC post by Jonathan Adler. In the comments, legal ethics experts such as Stephen Gillers and Steve Lubet weigh in.)
Appeals Court Rejects Brief Submitted by Ex-Judges [New York Times via How Appealing]
NYT on Judicial Amicus Brief Rejection [Volokh Conspiracy]
Court Nixes Brief Because Ex-Judges Called Themselves Judges [WSJ Law Blog]
- Deaths, Eliot Spitzer, Federal Government, Federal Judges, Gerald Ford, John Roberts, Money, Monica Lewinsky, Morning Docket, Politics, Sex Scandals, William Lerach
* The nation mourns President Gerald R. Ford. Federal government employees and stock exchange workers thank him for a four-day weekend. [Washington Post; Associated Press]
* Plaintiffs’ class-action lawyer William Lerach claims that firing him would cause “delay, duplication of effort and extra costs.” So does hiring him. [WSJ Law Blog]
* A new year, an old question: Are federal judges underpaid? Maybe; maybe not. [New York Times; Washington Wire; SCOTUSblog; National Review Online (via How Appealing)]
(We think Chief Justice Roberts is being a bit alarmist. Is it truly a “constitutional crisis” that Sidwell Friends doesn’t accept payment in prestige?)
* This seems sensible. But since when has the Senate cared about common sense? The
inefficiency quirkiness of that institution is why we love it so. [Los Angeles Times via How Appealing]
* Can New York Governor Eliot Spitzer live up to the hype? Several scandals have at least given him a lot to work with. [New York Times]
* WaPo columnist Richard Cohen shares our love for Monica Lewinsky. Why can’t the media give her the respect that she’s entitled to? Making double entendres about oral sex is no way to treat a lady. [Washington Post]
Via How Appealing, of course (because who else besides us and Howard Bashman is blogging right now):
1. Controversial Fifth Circuit nominee Michael Wallace (at right), a member of the Elect (Rehnquist/OT 1977) who was still rated “unqualified” by the ABA, will ask President Bush to withdraw his nomination next week.
This is a smart and gracious move by Wallace, which will allow the White House to save some face. Since Wallace couldn’t even get confirmed in the Republican-controlled 109th Congress, his chances of confirmation in the 110th Congress would have been next to nil.
2. Disciplinary sanctions may be imposed upon Judge Manuel Real (C.D. Cal.), the Los Angeles federal judge accused of improperly intervening in a bankruptcy case to rescue a
damsel probationer in distress (Deborah Canter, routinely described in news accounts as “a comely female”).
Ladies and gentlemen, chivalry is officially dead. What’s the point of being “a comely female” if you can’t get favorable treatment from the federal courts?
Judge Real has appealed the censure ruling of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council to the Judicial Conference of the United States. It’s not clear when they will rule.
Judicial hopeful steps aside [Clarion-Ledger]
Michael B. Wallace bio [Phelps Dunbar]
Web error reveals censure of U.S. judge [Los Angeles Times]
Manuel L. Real bio [FJC]
- Eyes of the Law, Federal Judges, Hotties, Jed Rakoff, Kimba Wood, Laura Taylor Swain, Music, S.D.N.Y.
We’ve solicited funny holiday party stories from you. We haven’t received much thus far.
But from the legendary Southern District of New York, probably the nation’s most distinguished district court bench, we did get this account of its celebrated “Courthouse Follies” (which took place on the evening of Friday, December 15):
Item: The Southern District of New York’s “Courthouse Follies,” tonight.
Showstopping performance: A boisterous musical number by Judge Jed Rakoff (at right), Judge Laura Taylor Swain, Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis, and Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith. Sung to the tune of “There Once Was a Man” from Doris Day’s “The Pajama Game,” with additional lyrics and dialogue by Judge Rakoff, the act featured Judge Rakoff in a blond fright wig, Judge Swain in a Groucho mask with cigar, Judge Ellis in an oversized red polka-dot bow tie, and Judge Smith in what I can characterize only as a goofy black hat.
Was that a woman’s blond fright wig? If so, Judge Rakoff can kiss any elevation hopes good-bye. Senator Brownback opposes all judicial nominees who have appeared in drag.
Highlight: A musical shoutout to Underneath Their Robes! The patter leading up to the song was about changes in the courthouse under the new chief judge. One of them was (I’m paraphrasing slightly), “I get all my case info from www.underneaththeirrobes.com.”
Less a joke than a name check, but it suggests that Judge Rakoff is a fan.
Interestingly enough, the new chief judge of the Southern District is none other than Kimba M. Wood — the reigning Superhottie of the Federal Judiciary, per UTR.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, yes, we will be holding a new Superhotties of the Federal Judiciary contest. Look for it in 2007.
- Federal Judges, Gay Marriage, Janet Neff, Judicial Nominations, Lesbians, Politics, Senate Judiciary Committee, State Judges
We’re obsessed with federal judges. And we’re fascinated by lesbians (in a strange, quasi-sociological way). So of course we must weigh in on the whole Senator Sam Brownback/Judge Janet Neff controversy.
The uber-conservative Senator Brownback (R-KS), a likely standard-bearer for social conservatives in 2008, had been blocking Judge Neff’s nomination to the federal bench — currently she’s a Michigan state-court judge — because she once attended a same-sex commitment ceremony. For lesbians.
But earlier this week, Sen. Brownback announced that he would permit a vote on Janet Neff’s nomination. We see this as good news.
Call us libertine (or libertarian), but Senator Brownback’s original position was a bit much. We agree with Dan Markel’s characterization of it as “asinine” and “obtuse.” Regardless of your views on gay marriage, it seems unwarranted to hold up a judicial nomination because the nominee once went to a party. Back in 2002. For lesbians.
(And we’d add that Judge Neff is merely a District Court nominee. How much damage can she do there? If she issues an opinion holding that the U.S. Constitution guarantees lesbians the right to marry, she’ll be reversed faster than you can say “power tools.” And if Brownback is worried that she’d use her judicial authority to go around marrying Sapphists left and right, it’s too late — she’s already a state court judge.)
Here’s a little more background (and commentary):
Janet T. Neff — the judicial nominee whose nomination to the federal bench is being delayed while Sen. Sam Brownback investigates what, exactly, she did at a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony — says that she attended the event merely as a friend and did not act out of line. In a letter to Brownback that was quoted today by the AP, Neff wrote:
“The ceremony, which was entirely private, took place in Massachusetts, where I had no authority to act in any official capacity and where, in any event, the ceremony had no legal effect…”
“When Mary and her partner, Karen Adelman, asked me to participate in their commitment ceremony by delivering a homily, it was not different from being asked by my own daughters to be part of an important event in their lives.”
And we think we speak for everyone when we say: BURN HER!!!!!! SHE’S A….COMMITMENT CEREMONY ATTENDEE?!?!?!?!
It’s unclear what Brownback will do next to try and stop Neff’s nomination. However, rumor has it he is currently in his lab testing hairs that he plucked from Neff’s head to see if any of “the gay” happened to seep in through her scalp and penetrate her soul.
Even more dubious than Senator Brownback’s original position was this idea:
Mr. Brownback… said he would also no longer press a proposed solution he offered on Dec. 8 that garnered even more criticism: that he would remove his block if Judge Neff agreed to recuse herself from all cases involving same-sex unions.
In an interview with the Times, Professor Charles Fried, the prominent conservative legal scholar, explained why this proposal would be problematic. For lesbians. And the judiciary, too.
But wait — it’s not over yet. Senator Brownback will allow a vote on Janet Neff, but he wants more hearings, so he can question her further about her participation in the lesbianic rituals. (Read: grandstand for Republican primary voters.)
We’ve rambled on long enough; now it’s your turn. After all, YOU are Time’s Person of the Year.
Please help out Senator Brownback. In the comments, please suggest questions for Brownback to propose to Judge Neff if supplemental hearings take place. Thanks.
Update: Some well-expressed views on this from Captain Ed (via Instapundit).
Brownback Wants to Re-Question Nominee [Associated Press via How Appealing]
Senator Removes His Block on Federal Court Nominee [New York Times]
This time of year, however, it’s usually the free booze, Ecstasy, and mistletoe [PrawfsBlawg]
Yes, Ms. Neff, but when the women kissed — did you look at them for a period extending three seconds? [Good As You]
- 3rd Circuit, Federal Judges, Judicial Nominations, Kent Jordan, Noel Hillman, Politics, Senate Judiciary Committee
A few quick updates on our former stomping grounds, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit:
1. There’s been some speculation about who might be nominated for the Third Circuit seat previously held by Justice Alito. What we’re now hearing is that it’s probably going to Judge Noel Hillman, a former high-ranking Justice Department official, just confirmed to the District Court (D.N.J.).
This might be surprising, considering that Judge Hillman has barely warmed the district court bench. His investiture as a district judge took place only a few weeks ago.
But nominating Judge Hillman to the court of appeals actually makes political sense for the White House — especially in its current, weakened state. President Bush doesn’t have a great deal of political capital right now, and he’ll be dealing with a Democrat-controlled Senate come January (assuming Sen. Johnson hangs in there).
Picking a nominee who made it through the Senate just a few months ago would be a shrewd move. Since the two New Jersey senators supported Hillman for the district court, it would be awkward for them to oppose him for the circuit court now.
Of course, this is just a rumor. And rumors can be wrong. So stay tuned.
2. Judge Kent Jordan, formerly on the Delaware district court bench, was sworn in as the newest Third Circuit judge on Friday morning. The ceremony was small and private. Judge Jordan was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month, by a vote of 91-0, before the end of the 109th Congress.
3. Another Third Circuit nominee, Judge Thomas Hardiman (W.D. Pa.), may not be as easy a sell as one might have thought. Senate Democrats are tut-tutting him for making political contributions to Republican candidates before he was nominated for his district judgeship.
Call us cynical, but this strikes us as no big deal. Making (perfectly legal) campaign contributions to U.S. senators? How else do you become a federal judge?
Seriously, this is not a new practice. Political patronage goes back to, like, the Jackson Administration. And strategic campaign giving has been engaged in by judicial nominees on both sides of the aisle (PDF).
This is why we were unimpressed with Salon’s “four-month investigation” showing that, lo and behold, politicians reward their contributors with federal judgeships. We could have told you that in four seconds.
Noel L. Hillman bio [FJC]
Senate Confirms Kent Jordan to 3rd Circuit, Replacing Senior Judge Jane Roth [Legal Intelligencer]
Judge Kent Jordan Confirmed to the Third Circuit [How Appealing]
Kent A. Jordan bio [FJC]
Another Bush judge on the hot seat [Salon.com via How Appealing]
Thomas M. Hardiman bio [FJC]
Riding Circuit — In a Taxicab? [Underneath Their Robes]
Non-Scandal [Committee for Justice Blog]
- Antonin Scalia, Deaths, Duke Lacrosse Team Rape Case, Eavesdropping / Wiretapping, Federal Judges, HP, Larry Sonsini, Money, Morning Docket, Murder, Politics, State Judges, Wilson Sonsini
* Justice Scalia on judicial paychecks. [Associated Press]
* “It was just a matter of time before well-heeled business and other interests would expand their influence-peddling efforts, and begin pouring large amounts of money into previously sleepy judicial campaigns.” [TimesSelect (pass-through link) via How Appealing]
* No more melting coins for the value of the metals. [ABC]
* Natalee Holloway’s family files wrongful death suit in Aruba. [MSNBC]
* “Accuser in Duke lacrosse case about to give birth.” [SI.com]
* HP board terminates advisory relationship with Silicon Valley superlawyer Larry Sonsini. [New York Times via Dealbreaker; WSJ Law Blog]
Time for a quick break from Biglaw and bonuses. Earlier this week, Judge Denny Chin (S.D.N.Y.) dismissed a lawsuit by a Florida man who blamed the Atkins diet for his heart troubles. As the WSJ Law Blog points out, Judge Chin offered some dieting tips in the opinion:
In a footnote, Judge Chin wrote that he has had success with his own “much simpler diet, which can be described in four words: Run more, eat less.”
We’d like to supplement this coverage. Judge Chin is one of many federal judges who enjoy running, and he runs regularly with his law clerks. They go for a vigorous morning jog through downtown Manhattan or along the Hudson River, then stop for steamed Chinese pork buns on the way back to chambers.
(But given all the weight that Judge Chin has successfully lost since taking up the sport, we’re guessing he consumes the Siu Bao in only moderate quantities.)
Judge Chin took up running only seven years ago. Since then he has completed the New York City marathon four times. How fast was he?
- Antonin Scalia, Art, Celebrities, Federal Judges, Intellectual Property, Law Schools, Money, Movies, Non-Sequiturs, Rap, Romance and Dating, Trademarks
* This is beautiful and noble. Painting with your butt — or, rather, using your butt as a type of giant rubber stamp — not so much. [Richmond Times Dispatch]
* Not all law students are holed up in the library 24/7, but it’s clear that cramming has taken a lot out of Legal Bachelor’s game. [Chicks Dig Law Students]
* Hmmm. I actually agree with Scalia here. (Well, if you are the inspiration for a Christmas season movie starring Will Smith, you could raise a kid on nothing but love and hope.) [Crime & Federalism]
* Your words-of-the-day: racewalker, Hooman, and the universal favorite, law school gunner. And to think I’ve been out of law school for only a few years. [Urban Dictionary]
* We should remind Evel Knievel that Jesus didn’t sue. And while we’re on the subject, why do I know who Evel Knievel is? [Likelihood of Confusion]