Federal Judges

[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.).

Judge John Roll

We’re not going to weigh in on all the rampant speculation about what gave rise to the shooting today in Arizona involving Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona). But we did want to inform you that news outlets are now reporting that federal judge John Roll was one of the victims in the shooting in Tucson.

UPDATE: President Obama is also confirming that Chief Judge John M. Roll (D. Ariz.) was fatally shot in Tucson. Here’s a statement from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:

“I am deeply saddened by reports that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Chief Judge John Roll and others were attacked this afternoon in Tucson, Arizona. There is no place in our society or discourse for such senseless and unconscionable acts of violence. Gabby is a steadfast representative for southern Arizona and both she and John are dedicated public servants.

“The Department of Homeland Security has offered all possible assistance to the FBI and the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, who are leading the investigation. My thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her family and staff, and all those who were injured in this difficult time.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Some more details on Judge Roll, plus several UPDATES, after the jump…

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Over many years, however, a persistent problem has developed in the process of filling judicial vacancies. Each political party has found it easy to turn on a dime from decrying to defending the blocking of judicial nominations, depending on their changing political fortunes. This has created acute difficulties for some judicial districts.

— Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his annual report on the state of the federal judiciary (gavel bang: Tony Mauro / The BLT).

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