Federal Judges

avatar Frolic and Detour ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by FROLIC & DETOUR, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Frolic & Detour's avatar (at right).]
Demanding bosses come with the territory in our line of work. Several less-than-loving legal employers have been profiled here on ATL, and you’ve shared some fine examples of bossal abuse. But until today, we’ve never undertaken a search for the worst boss in the legal profession.
Skadden employee Skadden Arps Slate Meagher Flom.jpgThis week, we want to find the ultimate briefcase-hurling, insult-spewing master of the legal boss’s art. ATL will get the ball rolling by offering the first nominee:
Senior Judge Suzanne B. Conlon, a living legend of the Northern District of Illinois, is a true judicial diva. She even fired a staff member who refused to carry the judge’s lunch up 17 flights of stairs on a day when the elevators weren’t working. But those in the know tell us that Judge Conlon didn’t reach the pinnacle of her achievements in bossery until September 11, 2001.
Judge Conlon is famous for her punctuality and for her ruthless enforcement of deadlines. So when federal marshals evacuated the Dirksen courthouse that sunny morning, she stayed put in her chambers. One clerk began to make made preparations to leave, per the instructions of the guys with guns. Judge Conlon decreed [paraphrasing]: “It is a TUESDAY, you are here till SIX, and if you leave, don’t come back.”
So he left and didn’t come back.
Can you top this, readers? We bet you can. Tell us why your boss (or former boss) deserves the Worst Legal Boss honor at [email protected] or in the comments. We’ll select the most outstanding candidates and post the full list of nominees on Thursday.

Kozinski.jpgWe have. So, barring major new developments, we’re cutting back on our coverage of the controversy surrounding Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit. As we suggested yesterday, the story is petering out anyway; but if you’re still interested in following it, check out Patterico’s Pontifications, which has been offering excellent, wall-to-wall coverage.
Before we take our leave of this tale, here are a few notable links:
1. Judges Named To Head Kozinski Inquiry [AP]
This is the only real news to emerge since our last post. Chief Justice John Roberts, responding to Chief Judge Kozinski’s request for an investigation, has named five jurists to the investigatory panel: Chief Judge Anthony Scirica, Judge Marjorie Rendell, and Judge Walter Stapleton, of the Third Circuit; Chief Judge Harvey Bartle III (E.D. Pa.); and Chief Judge Garrett Brown Jr. (D.N.J.). This is a solid group of judges; expect their investigation to be thorough and proper.
2. Cyrus Sanai: Kozinski investigation “is part of a litigation strategy” [Overlawyered]
The Kozinski archenemy who tipped off the Los Angeles Times to the judge’s website — L.A. lawyer Cyrus Sanai, who has been feuding with the judge since 2005 — is a real piece of work. At Overlawyered, Ted Frank chronicles how Sanai has been benchslapped by numerous judges, both federal and state, at the trial and appellate levels. Sanai blames the mountain of adverse on rulings on bias. Frank writes:

One has much sympathy for Cyrus Sanai, who has suffered the extraordinary misfortune of four trial judges in three different jurisdictions who are biased against him, and that does not include the appellate judges like the Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, Gerry Alexander; Washington State Court of Appeals judges Marlin Applewick, Anne Ellington and William Baker; or Judge Kozinski on the Ninth Circuit, all of whom Sanai has accused of bias. We wish that a just result is reached in Sanai’s various appeals, and pray that a just result is reached if a California legal disciplinary body ever decides to investigate what biased judges have been saying about Sanai.

3. Who’s at Fault For the Kozinski Kerfluffle? [Simple Justice]
Scott Greenfield writes:

David Lat, who has feasted on unsubstantiated gossip at Above the Law as well as his blog dedicated to sifting the salacious from the judicious, Underneath Their Robes (where he blogged anonymously as Article III Groupie, or A3G as he came to be known), joins the chorus [of Kozinski defenders]. But does the former AUSA explain his sudden conversion? Isn’t this the guy who is first on line (and online) to publish a smear of any lawyer or judge? In fairness, Lat’s connection to Kozinski is well-known to his long-time followers, but the new reader would be left out in the cold.

As Greenfield suggests, we view our connection to Chief Judge Kozinski as very well-known, and therefore not worth belaboring. But if he wants some sort of formal disclosure, here it is.
Disclosure: We have a great deal of respect and affection for Chief Judge Kozinski, whom we consider a friend. He helped launch our blogging career with his support of our first foray into the blogosphere, Underneath Their Robes (started four years ago this month). Our coverage of him is biased. If you’d like to read harsh personal attacks upon Chief Judge Kozinski, you should look elsewhere.
Above the Law is an independent blog. Unlike MSM-sponsored blogs such as the WSJ or the BLT, ATL makes no claim to “objectivity.” Considering that we opine daily on all sorts of topics, in ways that would be unacceptable for pure news reporters to do, we don’t see how anyone could mistake ATL for an objective news source. But if you want an express disclaimer of objectivity, consider this it.
Finally, we’d like to clarify our views of the “Kozinski Kerfluffle,” as Greenfield aptly dubs it. Consistent with our general antipathy to privacy, we don’t entirely agree with observers who see what Sanai and the L.A. Times did as an egregious privacy violation. On this we agree with Ted Frank:

I don’t think I fully endorse Lessig’s view on this — accessing a directory on a public website may be slightly creepy, but it’s not the same as breaking and entering a house to peer inside the photo albums in the den; it’s not even at the level of obnoxiousness as a guest inspecting the medicine cabinets of a host’s bathroom.

What we do think, however, is that the whole matter has become completely overblown. All it shows is that federal judges enjoy the occasional dirty joke and have risque material on their computers — in other words, “they’re just like us.” Considering that we launched a blog devoted to this very proposition four years ago, we find it hard to get that excited about it now.
4. Defending Judge Kozinski, and Online Privacy [The Lede / NYT]
ATL gets a shout-out from Mike Nizza in the Lede, a New York Times blog, in this concise round-up of the latest developments.
Judges named to head Kozinski inquiry [AP]
Cyrus Sanai: Kozinski investigation “is part of a litigation strategy” [Overlawyered]
Who’s at Fault For the Kozinski Kerfluffle? [Simple Justice]
Defending Judge Kozinski, and Online Privacy [The Lede / New York Times]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (scroll down)

Alex Kozinski small Alex S Kozinski Judge Above the Law hot hottie superhottie federal judiciary.JPGApologies for the downtime. We were off being interviewed by CNN Headline News about the controversy surrounding Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit. We’ll post a link to the interview if and when it becomes available.
Speaking of Chief Judge Kozinski, here’s the latest news:

The 9th Circuit judge, who posted sexually explicit material on his own site, according to a Los Angeles Times story yesterday, has just released this statement:

I have asked the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit to take steps pursuant to Rule 26, of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct and Disability, and to initiate proceedings concerning the article that appeared in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times. I will cooperate fully in any investigation.

Is it unusual for a judge to call for an investigation of himself? Sure. But it’s a testament to Chief Judge Kozinski’s integrity and forthrightness; he’s not trying to hide anything underneath his robe. This is a smart move, a lesson in good crisis management.
Kozinski Calls for Investigation of Himself [WSJ Law Blog]
Judge wants panel to investigate his porn postings [Associated Press]

Posner.jpgProcrastination is a terrible habit, and the internet is truly the great enabler. How many hours of productivity are lost to YouTube each year?
Judging from Law Firm March Madness traffic, lawyers are definitely among the office workers looking for distraction. Slate has gathered “procrastination rituals” from various professionals. One of the contributors is Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit. His ritual is not to procrastinate:

Procrastination is very unhealthy. It causes problems for the people who are counting on you to complete things in a timely fashion and it makes your own life more difficult…. It helps to be a little compulsive. Then you feel uncomfortable if something is hanging over you — that’s the opposite of procrastination, a compulsion to complete things and get rid of the albatross hanging over you…. I have that compulsion.

And that’s why he’s Richard Posner: circuit judge, law professor, author of almost forty (40) books, prolific blogger, and one of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals. And he even manages to sleep, about six hours a night on average.
“Don’t procrastinate.” Like so much good advice, it’s hard to follow. But we’ll try. Just after we’re done reading this article about a scientific formula for procrastinating, searching the videos that come up on YouTube when you search “procrastinate”, listening to the Posner-Lat podcast, and playing our turn in Scrabulous…
Procrasti-Nation [Slate.com]

Fred_Biery.jpgThose Texans love the word of God. In 2005, they went to SCOTUS to defend a monument to the 10 Commandments that stands on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. Hailing from San Antonio, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery is invoking the higher power in his judgment against a religious school’s right to join a Texan school membership league.

In a ruling Tuesday denying Cornerstone Christian Schools’ attempt to join the state’s premier extracurricular organization, a federal judge chided the school’s founder and famed preacher John Hagee for contradicting at times his own Christian tenets, using numerous references to the Bible, Koran and even a famous fairy tale.

Who needs precedent and constitutional law when there’s so much wisdom to be found in Grimm tales and Disney movies? Let’s look at the opinion….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: Fred Biery”

McDermott Will Emery Above the Law blog.jpgPity the poor partners of McDermott Will & Emery. Sure, their firm is highly regarded and highly profitable. But when they head off to try cases in far-off places, they often get benchslapped silly.
You may recall the case of bankruptcy partner William Smith, who found himself in the deep-fat fryer after telling a judge she was “a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal.” Although the judge was upset, in the end Smith got a slap on the wrist.
Things didn’t end as happily for Terrence McMahon and Vera Elson, MWE partners based in Silicon Valley. Judge Richard P. Matsch — the tough, well-regarded trial judge who presided over the Oklahoma City bombing case — sanctioned McMahon and Elson for “cavalier and abusive” misconduct and a “what can I get away with?” attitude during trial. From the Denver Post:

A federal judge recently got so infuriated by the conduct of two highly regarded trial attorneys that he overturned a jury’s $51 million verdict, then ordered the lawyers to pay the fees and costs of the opposing lawyers, a sum that could total several million dollars.

Ouch. So is that coming out of their partnership draws?
Or maybe the firm will find other ways to cut costs. Read more, after the jump.
Update: Please note that this post has been corrected since it was first published. The correction appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyers of the Day: McDermott Will & Emery
(And they just canceled their associate retreat, too.)”

Robert Somma Bankruptcy Judge Robert Somma Above the Law blog.jpgOr at least his robes. A quick update on a recent Judge of the Day, from Robert Ambrogi over at Legal Blog Watch:

By all accounts, Robert Somma had been a top-notch U.S. bankruptcy judge since his appointment to the bench in 2004 and a top-notch bankruptcy practitioner for many years before that. The sense of many in the Boston area is that the 63-year-old’s retirement Friday from his $158,000-a-year bench seat is a tragedy….

A footnote to this story is that a legal-blogger may have contributed to the judge’s decision to resign.

No, not us! By the time we got to the story, it had been all over the news. Also, for the record, we fully support transvestism.
More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Cross-Dressing Judge Hangs Up His Heels”

Chicago skyline river Above the Law blog.jpgGreetings from the great — but frigid — city of Chicago. We’re hanging out with friends and doing some sightseeing, but the main reason for our visit is this event, taking place on Thursday (and open to the public):

Judges As Public Figures
Thursday, February 21, 2008, 4:15 PM
University of Chicago Law School, Room II

Judge Richard Posner
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

David Lat
Above the Law
Underneath Their Robes

Professor Lior Strahilevitz
University of Chicago Law School

While in Chi-town, we will also be meeting readers at an ATL “Happy Hour,” similar to the event we held in Miami last year. It will take place on Wednesday, February 20, sometime after work (time and place to be determined).
Update: The Chicago “Happy Hour” will take place on Wednesday, February 20, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Miller’s Pub (134 S. Wabash). Hope to see you there!
Schedule of Events [University of Chicago Law School Federalist Society]

Robert Somma Bankruptcy Judge Robert Somma Above the Law blog.jpgThere are reasons to read the New Hampshire Union Leader even after primary season is over. Check out this great article:

A Boston-based federal judge wore a black cocktail dress, fish-net stockings and high heels when police arrested him for drunk driving after he rear-ended a pickup truck last week, sources said.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Somma, 63, struck a plea deal with the city Wednesday in which he pleaded no contest to a first-offense misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charge in Manchester District Court. In exchange, the judge agreed to pay $600 in fines and penalties and a 12-month license suspension….

The arresting officer made no mention of the judge’s attire in the written report police provided to the media other than to note the judge “had a difficult time locating his license in his purse.”

Two sources confirmed Somma was wearing a cocktail dress, women’s hose and high heels when his Mercedes-Benz E320 sedan struck a pickup truck stopped at a red light on Elm Street about 11:29 p.m. on Feb. 6.

Whatever floats your boat, Your Honor. Judge not lest ye be judged.
Arrested judge wore dress, women’s hosiery [New Hampshire Union Leader]

Brianne Gorod Justice Stephen Breyer Above the Law blog.jpgWe bring you an addendum to Monday’s post about the latest in Supreme Court clerk hiring. And we’re pleasantly surprised to see that we have this news before Wikipedia.
Recently hired to clerk for Justice Stephen G. Breyer in October Term 2008: Brianne Gorod, currently in the D.C. office of O’Melveny & Myers. Gorod is a 2005 Yale Law grad and a former clerk to the judicial tag team of Jed S. Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.) and Robert A. Katzmann (2d Cir.).
Those who obsessively follows SCOTUS clerk hiring know that Judges Rakoff and Katzmann have jointly sent clerks to the Court before. But contrary to some rumors, they’re not always a “package deal” when it comes to hiring (although there is a significant degree of overlap among their current and former clerks).
Judge Katzmann prefers to hire individuals who have clerked on the district court (or have some other kind of post-law school work experience), so he regularly turns to Judge Rakoff, for whom he has a great deal of respect, as a source of clerkly talent. Judge Katzmann sometimes also helps promising applicants to his own chambers to secure interviews with Judge Rakoff. Conversely, Judge Rakoff also refers and sends clerks to Judge Katzmann, as well as to other Second Circuit judges, and he has also hired some clerks after Second Circuit clerkships. In short, both judges think it’s valuable for people to have both district and circuit clerkship experiences, and they try to help make that happen for their clerks. But they don’t hire 100 percent of their clerks jointly.
The current tally of OT 2008 SCOTUS clerks, with Brianne Gorod added, appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: Justice Breyer’s Final Hire
(And a Digression on Judges Katzmann and Rakoff)”

Page 58 of 731...545556575859606162...73