Judicial Divas

Who says the Midwest is more laid back than the coasts? Who says Midwesterners are more polite than people who live in big cities? Who says working in a place like Iowa affords a higher quality of life and a better work/life balance than working in a place like Chicago?

Not United States District Court Judge Mark Bennett. No sir.

We’ve written about Judge Bennett before. He’s a funny guy. The last time we saw him, he was expressing his personal bias against “East Coast law firms,” in part because he think big city lawyers possess “unsurpassed arrogance.”

But Judge Bennett might be selling himself short. I don’t think the average East Coast lawyer’s arrogance even approaches what His Honor rolls with…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Iowa Judge Warns Prospective Clerks Not To Expect A ‘Balanced’ Life”

Judge Vanessa Gilmore, a self-identified judicial diva.

Back in 2007, I declared Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (S.D. Tex.) to be a judicial diva (a term I first popularized over at my original blog, Underneath Their Robes). Judge Gilmore earned this delicious distinction through such behavior as allegedly throwing objects at attorneys in open court and dumping motions in the trash for using the incorrect font.

Well, it appears that Judge Vanessa Gilmore was pleased rather than perturbed by her diva designation. As she told the Texas Lawyer, she used it in the title of her new book, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Tales From a Judicial Diva.

This is Judge Gilmore’s second book. Her first literary effort, A Boy Named Rocky, was “a coloring book for the children of incarcerated parents.” (They sure could use it — if any kids need to be taught to stay within the lines….)

Let’s learn more about Judge Gilmore’s latest book — and check out the delightfully ridiculous cover art….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Memoirs of a Judicial Diva: Judge Vanessa Gilmore Pens A Second Book”

U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett won’t get the publicity of Judge Martin Feldman. Obviously, blocking President Obama’s deep-water drilling moratorium — having already disclosed investments in Transocean and Halliburton — is big news.

But Judge Bennett is making waves of his own in his Iowa courtroom. He’s decided that he wants lawyers to participate in an auction to determine who will get to serve as lead counsel in some consolidated antitrust cases.

And he informed lawyers of this with a curious email. The subject line alone is not something one expects from a federal judge:

Waterman v. VS Holding Co. et al (10cv4038) – consolidated antitrust actions – “going once, twice, sold to the lowest bidder” – ready to rumble?

Not only is this judge “ready to rumble,” he’s also ready to insult lawyers from East Coast law firms…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: Judge Mark Bennett of Iowa Is ‘Underwhelmed’ By East Coast Law Firms”


Warning to the female readers of Above the Law: the reading of this post may lead to the rending of your inappropriate clothing and pulling out of your questionably-styled hair.

Earlier this month, lady lawyers gathered in Philadelphia for the ABA’s Women in Law Leadership Academy. Gina Passarella of the Legal Intelligencer was in attendance and reported on a session featuring esteemed female judges offering advice to their trial lawyer counterparts (gavel bang: ABA Journal).

U.S. District Judge Norma L. Shapiro criticized women for being too timid in the courtroom. She said that “women lack the confidence that men seem to have.” Apparently the solution is the same one that women employ when they lack enthusiasm and confidence in certain other situations:

“You pretend. You fake it,” Shapiro said, adding that being prepared helps.

If faking confidence in the courtroom is as easy as feigning pleasure in the bedroom, perhaps many more women will soon be coming across as master litigators.

The judges had other advice. When a whole bunch of women get together, they just can’t help but complain about other women’s outfits and hair, after all….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Advice for Women Lawyers: Fake It.”

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).]
Many thanks to those who wrote in about their creepy, sadistic, and otherwise entertaining legal bosses.
Skadden employee Skadden Arps Slate Meagher Flom.jpgOur first nominee, Judge Suzanne B. Conlon, earned her place in bossal history by firing a clerk for complying with an evacuation order on Sep. 11, 2001.
Read about her competition, courtesy of some long-suffering ATL readers, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “America’s Worst Legal Boss Strikes Back”

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 frolicndetour.atl.idol@gmail.com or in the comments. We’ll select the most outstanding candidates and post the full list of nominees on Thursday.

prostitute intern tramp Judge Ann Lokuta Above the Law blog.jpgHow have we not heard of her before? She’s fabulous! And for reasons that will soon become obvious, a Pennsylvania state court jurist, Luzerne County Judge Ann Lokuta, is today’s Judge of the Day.
From the Citizens Voice:

A former intern of Luzerne County Judge Ann Lokuta testified tonight the jurist called her a tramp for wearing a sleeveless shirt to work.

Rebecca Sammon took the stand in Lokuta’s misconduct trial and described another incident where Lokuta yelled at her for being nice on the phone.

Awesome. And there’s more:

Prothonotory Jill Moran testified lawyers got yelled at for clicking pens or writing too loudly in Lokuta’s courtroom. Prothonotary clerk Maura Cusick said Lokuta was either a good judge or a wicked judge.

A dichotomy couldn’t be more false: a wicked judge IS a good judge. The Honorable Ann Lokuta is a delicious judicial diva.
[Ed. note: Yes, we just learned what "prothonotary" means too. See here.]
More obscure terms for judicial staff members, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Ann Lokuta: My Intern Is a Tramp”

Up until this point, we had perhaps shaky evidence that Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for NPR, is a diva.

There was the (now closed) ATL reader poll, in which 30 percent of you declared La Totenberg to be a true diva. There were various stories of diva-like behavior. There was her recent, diva-licious appearance on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, in which she gave Scooter Libby prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald a piece of her mind. (Click here, select “Not My Job: Patrick Fitzgerald,” and skip ahead to the 7:30 mark.)

But now it’s official: Nina Totenberg really IS a diva, narrowly defined as “[a] female opera star of great rank or pretension.” Click here, and listen to her operatically trill the four finalists for a new “All Things Considered” jingle.

Although some of the notes in Nina’s upper register sound a little thin, on the whole she’s in fine voice. We’re very impressed!

From one tipster: “Can I suggest a barbershop quartet, consisting of Nina Totenberg, Joan Biskupic, Jan Crawford Greenburg, and Linda Greenhouse?” Or maybe a sing-off between Nina Totenberg and Judge Marjorie Rendell (3d Cir.), another diva in the figurative and literal senses of the word?

Now if only we can get Nina Totenberg to sing Everyone’s A Winner at Nixon Peabody

Vote for ‘All Things Considered’ Theme Song Lyrics [NPR]
Not My Job: Patrick Fitzgerald (around 7:30 mark) [Wait Wait Don't Tell Me / NPR]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Nina Totenberg (scroll down)

Marian Shelton Bronx Family Court Judge Marian Shelton Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgLast week we described the Honorable Marian Shelton, of Bronx Family Court, as “a true judicial diva.” Here’s more about her, from the New York Post:

A Bronx judge had a court clerk’s wife handcuffed and tossed in a cell for contempt – because she whispered “a**hole” after her husband was kept late at work, a state panel has charged.

Family Court Judge Marian Shelton screamed at the woman, “He’ll leave when he’s finished his work, not when you tell him!” before ordering court officers to take her to a holding cell for the weekend….

Pretty awesome. Should we be surprised to learn that Judge Shelton’s wedding was presided over by another colorful and cantankerous New Yorker, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani?
Interesting enough, Judge Shelton is being eyed for elevation — but not to an appellate court. Details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Marian Shelton: A Judge Judy in Waiting?”

Marian Shelton Bronx Family Court Judge Marian Shelton Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgOkay, she looks like a cross between Chelsea Clinton and your fourth-grade English teacher. But make no mistake about it: Judge Marian Shelton is a true judicial diva, and not to be messed with.
From the New York Daily News:

Bronx Family Court Judge Marian Shelton allegedly yelled at a lawyer to “shut up,” tossed a woman from court for wearing “inappropriate” clothing, told a Caribbean man to “take those stupid things out of your hair” and said a lawyer had “mental health issues.”…

“Go to therapy, but don’t act out in my courtroom,” Shelton allegedly snapped at one law guardian in a 2005 case.

In another instance, she allegedly mocked the accent of lawyer Mariana Toledo-Hermina.

“How is Toledo-Hermina an attorney when you cannot understand what she is saying?” Shelton allegedly said.

But Judge Shelton has her defenders. Like her husband:

In May, anticipating the [disciplinary] charges, Shelton’s husband, wealthy former Proskauer Rose lawyer Saul Cohen, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to bash the commission.

Full-page NYT ads aren’t cheap. But then again, neither is chivalry.
Bronx judge scorn to be wild? [New York Daily News via Gothamist]

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