Take the words “all contributors.” Now close your eyes and contemplate what those words mean in plain English. This exercise serves two purposes, by both focusing your mind on the definition and simulating exactly how much the D.C. Circuit thinks you should know about the political process. How did they come to their decision, you might ask? By twisting, turning, and bending the words of the English language in a way that’s still illegal in nine states.
I mean, what more can you say about an opinion that calls dictionaries an “optical illusion?” Seriously…
It’s fitting that on this, the last week of the Supreme Court term, LEWW is considering a major test case. The issue: One couple has a Rhodes Scholarship, one has a SCOTUS clerkship, and one has two YLS degrees. How do we rank them?
Throw in a divorce, a famous grandparent, a couple of PhDs, a blog, three Courts of Appeals officiants, and a dash of “flava“, and we’ve got lots of credentials to chew up and spit out.
Here are the candidates:
The D.C. Circuit’s administrative law-heavy docket can be a total snooze-fest less than thrilling. But at least that uber-prestigious court is stocked with some interesting personalities.
Like the prominent, conservative, and temperamental Judge Laurence H. Silberman. From a tipster:
How about giving a shout-out to the latest Silbermannerisms? Yesterday Judge Silberman served up these two gems in a completely run-of-the-mill case, Menkes v. DHS (PDF):
“In response, the government raises a number of threshold jurisdictional arguments. Frankly, we do not think them worth a tinker’s damn.”
“This argument [is] unworthy of the government.”
OUCH — but not out of character for Judge Silberman. More from our source:
[H]e’s badass. The all-time greatest Silbermannerism:
“If you were ten years younger, I’d punch you out!” [Silberman to Abner Mikva, in conference with Ken Starr, as recalled by Mikva -- New York Times, 9/1/1998]
Someday I’ll start a blog on the DC Circuit, and when I do I plan to make Silbermannerisms a regular feature. But in the meantime, I hope you put those quotes to good use! He’s surely the greatest Judicial Divo of all time.
Judge Silberman is certainly in the running for that title. But what about his liberal counterpart, Judge Harry T. Edwards? No shrinking violet, he. Menkes v. DHS (PDF) [U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit]
“I wouldn’t call Harry Edwards a ‘judicial divo,’ per se. He’s just really irritable, that’s all.”
This is a continuation of our earlier post about a luncheon talk by the fantabulous Judge Janice Rogers Brown. Judge Brown sits on the D.C. Circuit, the most prestigious appellate court in the country after the U.S. Supreme Court (which she may someday join). She spoke recently before the Federalist Society in Washington, a group that she said she “always enjoys spending time with — despite all the trouble it gets [her] into.”
Discussion and pictures, after the jump.
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]
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