Judicial Divas

Chambermaid 2 Saira Rao Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgToday is our lucky day in terms of media coverage. In addition to the great WaPo shout-out, Above the Law is also mentioned in the Philadelphia Inquirer (front page, above the fold).
The article, by Inquirer book critic Carlin Romano, is all about Chambermaid, the highly entertaining debut novel of Saira Rao, loosely based on her clerkship for Judge Dolores Sloviter of the Third Circuit. You’ve probably already read tons of blog posts and articles about this buzz-generating book.
But this piece is different. It includes some choice comments from Judge Sloviter herself — who, until now, has remained silent about her former clerk’s literary endeavors (as far as we know).
More discussion, after the jump.

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Dolores Sloviter Judge Dolores K Sloviter Chambermaid Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgCheck out the woman at right. She is the Honorable Dolores K. Sloviter, and she sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Judge Sloviter seems like a kindly old lady, doesn’t she? We’ve seen her on the bench, at multiple oral arguments. Based on her grandmotherly appearance, we once quipped to a colleague: “She seems so nice! When is she going to descend from the bench and feed us homemade cookies?”
Answer: not anytime soon (unless the cookies are laced with arsenic). From one of Judge Sloviter’s former clerks, Professor Mike Rappaport:

In 1985, having just graduated from law school, I arrived for my first day of work as a law clerk to Dolores K. Sloviter of the Third Circuit….

My two co-clerks, who had arrived a week earlier, took me to lunch. I asked how things were going, and they looked kind of uncomfortable. They explained that on their first day, a week earlier, they had gone to lunch with the holdover clerk, and had asked her, almost making small talk, how her year had been. [T]hey listened as she spent the next hour and a half detailing the horrors of the experience, and how she wasn’t sure how she had gotten through it.

That law clerk’s year of hell turned out to be quite similar to our year….

(That’s just an excerpt. You can read the entire post by clicking here.)
But should any of this come as a surprise? As regular ATL readers surely recall, Dolores Sloviter is the alleged inspiration for the nightmarish Judge Helga Friedman, central villain of Saira Rao’s delightful new novel, Chambermaid.
Additional thoughts on hellacious clerkships, plus a call for reader tips, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judicial Clerkships From Hell: Submissions, Please”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Justice Ginsburg Above the Law Legal Website.gifThe front page of today’s Washington Post has an interesting article about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent yesterday in Ledbetter v. Goodyear:

The court ruled 5 to 4 that Lilly Ledbetter, the lone female supervisor at a tire plant in Gadsden, Ala., did not file her lawsuit against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in the timely manner specified by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The decision moved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to read a dissent from the bench, a usually rare practice that she has now employed twice in the past six weeks to criticize the majority for opinions that she said undermine women’s rights.

Speaking for the three other dissenting justices, Ginsburg’s voice was as precise and emotionless as if she were reading a banking decision, but the words were stinging.

Justice Ginsburg’s style of delivery should come as no surprise to regular visitors to the Court. She’s generally regarded as the most soporific when it comes to reading opinions from the bench.
But Justice Ginsburg’s decision to dissent from the bench is interesting. A number of more hard-core liberals — e.g., Judge Stephen Reinhardt, of the Ninth Circuit — view RBG as insufficiently liberal (or insufficiently outspoken in defense of her liberal views). They see her as something of a disappointment on the SCOTUS, given her pre-robescent background as a crusading lawyer for the ACLU and feminist legal scholar.
But RBG’s vociferous dissents in Ledbetter and in Gonzalez v. Carhart, the partial-birth abortion case from earlier in the Term, raise a question: Could Justice Ginsburg finally be flowering as liberal leader of the Supreme Court?
P.S. To be sure, “flowering” is not a term usually applied to Justice Ginsburg. But you know what we mean.
P.P.S. Among the federal appeals courts, we’d say the Eleventh Circuit has the greatest track record of producing liberal lionesses. E.g., Rosemary Barkett; Phyllis Kravitch.
But there are some noteworthy liberal judicial divas on other circuit courts. E.g., that New England ice queen, Sandra Lynch, of the First Circuit; that luscious Latina, Sonia Sotomayor, of the Second Circuit; the frighteningly brilliant Diane Wood, of the Seventh Circuit; the ancient yet energetic Betty Fletcher, of the Ninth Circuit; and the magically delicious Marsha Berzon, also of the Ninth Circuit.
Over Ginsburg’s Dissent, Court Limits Bias Suits [Washington Post]

Yes, we did catch Judge Marjorie O. Rendell on the Food Network earlier this week (see screenshot above). As we previously mentioned, she recently appeared on Dinner: Impossible, in her capacity as First Lady of Pennsylvania.

Chef Robert Invine was given a challenging task. He was directed “to prepare a stately array of hors d’oeuvres,” to be served at the Inaugural Ball of Judge Rendell’s husband, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell.

The number of guests: 4,000. The amount of time available to him: 24 hours. Despite the difficulty of the project, Chef Irvine completed his mission.

But we were a little disappointed with the episode, for a number of reasons….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Advice for Clerkship Seekers: Bring Duck and Apple Wontons to Your Interview With Judge Rendell”

Marjorie Rendell Midge Rendell Judge Marjorie O Rendell Above the Law Blog.jpgIf the answer is no, that’s about to change, as of tonight. A culinarily-minded tipster alerts us:

Tonight at 10:30 EST, the fabulous Judge Midge Rendell will appear on the Food Network. Check out tonight’s episode of Dinner: Impossible:

“Chef Robert Irvine faces his most daunting assignment yet. In a surprise meeting, the governor of Pennsylvania [Ed Rendell] challenges Robert to prepare a stately array of hors d’oeuvres for his Inaugural Ball. In just 24 hours Robert has to create and prepare Pennsylvania delicacies to feed 4,000 attendees!”

Television commercials reveal that Judge Rendell will appear on the show. I suspect that it will be diva-licious!

We agree. And perhaps Judge Rendell, who has given musical guidance to Jon Bon Jovi, can teach Irvine a thing or two about cooking.

If you need to be reminded of this judicial diva’s prowess in the kitchen, we direct you to her nomination blurb as a Superhottie of the Federal Judiciary:

By day, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell of the Third Circuit develops groundbreaking precedents affecting fundamental constitutional rights. By night, First Lady Marjorie “Midge” Rendell of the Governor’s Mansion develops… recipes!

Yes, now you too can whip up a feast consisting of Judge Rendell’s Savory Meatloaf, Broccoli-Chicken Casserole (yummy but fattening — that’s a lot of cream cheese!), Stuffed Mushrooms, and Lowfat Raspberry Souffle. Your Honor, this is delish!

Have any of you — maybe there are some former Rendell clerks among you — sampled Judge Rendell’s cuisine? If so, we’d love to get your firsthand report.

P.S. If you’re such a huge Judge Rendell groupie that you want to see her in person as well as on television, check out this event, taking place in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. It sounds fantastic.

We would have loved to watch the legendary Miguel Estrada and David Rudovsky argue before a star-studded bench. But when we called yesterday to reserve a seat, we were informed that seats are no longer available.

If you hang around outside the entrance, though, maybe you can catch a glimpse of judicial hottie Rendell as she enters or exits the building. Good luck!

Dinner: Impossible [Food Network]
Peter Jennings Project: Law and Order in 2015: A Case Set in the Future [National Constitution Center]
Judge Marjorie O. Rendell bio [FJC]

Earlier: Judge Rendell: She Gives Love a Bad Name

Federal Judges on a Plane.jpgSome time ago, we posted an anecdote about the family travel mishaps of Judge Marsha Berzon, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Many ATL readers enjoyed the story. But Judge Berzon’s colleague, Judge Alex Kozinski — one of the federal judiciary’s most brilliant thinkers and talented writers — was less pleased. He sent us an open letter criticizing the story and our decision to publish it.
We posted Judge Kozinski’s letter here, and we promised a more detailed response.
We intended to publish a response much earlier. But having to respond to a benchslapping at the hands of a brilliant federal judge tends to induce “writer’s block.” Who’d have thunk it?
Anyway, we finally got over our writer’s block. Our response appears after the jump.

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Until recently, Justice Emily Goodman was probably our favorite member of the New York Supreme Court — mainly ’cause she was nice enough to write to us.
But Justice Goodman has been displaced; we’ve found a new object for our affections. From Judicial Reports:

Is Carol Berkman the least popular Supreme Court Justice in Manhattan? We know a slew of attorneys who have put her at the top — or perhaps that’s the bottom — of their lists.

To say that Acting Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman of Manhattan is unpopular among litigators would be an understatement. More than a dozen lawyers recently cited her penchant for extraordinary verbal abuse of counsel.

One called her “ornery.” Another said “nasty.” Still another opined that she was “vindictive.”

In 1999 the Legal Aid Society took the highly unusual step of publicly petitioning against Berkman’s reappointment to Criminal Court. The society wrote a letter to the Mayor’s Committee on the Judiciary that accused the justice of “systematic rudeness and mistreatment of both defense and prosecution lawyers and defendants (and occasionally even belittlement of other judges).”

We love Justice Berkman: she’s smart, and she’s tough. On the smarts front, note her impressive resume, including Cornell and Harvard Law; her low reversal rate (5.4 percent); and the attorney testimonials in the Judicial Reports piece, noting her intelligence.
The Judicial Reports article also contains ample evidence of Judge Berkman’s tougheness — especially with respect to her handling of psychiatric evidence she perceives to be dubious. You can read the report in its entirety by clicking on the link below.
Wielding a Mean Gavel [Judicial Reports]

Vanessa Bryant Vanessa L Bryant Judge Above the Law legal blog.jpgYesterday brought some good news for Connecticut state court judge Vanessa Lynne Bryant, nominated to the federal district court for Connecticut.
From the Hartford Courant (via How Appealing):

The influential judicial screening committee of the American Bar Association has reversed itself on the nomination of Superior Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant to the federal bench, concluding that the judge it found not qualified a year ago is now qualified.

The chairman of the association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary said Tuesday that the new evaluation is the result of a routine re-examination of Bryant’s qualifications. That was triggered when Bryant’s nomination was resubmitted in January by President Bush after Congress adjourned last year without acting on it.

So Judge Bryant’s confirmation — which was never seriously in doubt, even back when she was deemed “unqualified,” due to the political support she enjoyed on both sides of the aisle — is now just a formality.
To refresh your memory, here’s some discussion of Judge Bryant’s earlier “not qualified” rating:

In confidential interviews, [ABA investigator Doreen] Dodson wrote, judges and lawyers described Bryant as “domineering and exasperated with lawyers,” “arrogant and unreasonable,” and “contentious and short-tempered.” Some also said she seemed overwhelmed by complex issues and wrote opinions that were hard to decipher. Dodson added that such complaints appeared consistently through her years on the bench.

Vanessa Gilmore Vanessa D Gilmore Judge Above the Law Above the Law judicial diva.jpgHmm… This description calls to mind a certain other jurist named Vanessa: Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (at right), appointed by President Clinton in 1994, and recently discussed here.
Now, we harbor a healthy skepticism of the ABA ratings process. And we do acknowledge the concerns that have been raised concerning the anonymous nature of the earlier criticisms of Judge Bryant, which hampered her ability to respond to them at her Judiciary Committee hearings.*
But here’s a question on our mind, which we’ll just toss out there for all of you to debate:

If confirmed to the federal bench, might Judge Vanessa Bryant someday end up looking like the northeastern, Republican version of Judge Vanessa Gilmore?

* Speaking of anonymous criticism of judges, yes, we know: we are delinquent with our response to Judge Alex Kozinski’s open letter. Look for it tomorrow.
Opinion Reversed: Judge Is Qualified [Hartford Courant (via How Appealing)]
Dodd, Lieberman and Blumenthal endorse federal judge nominee [Associated Press]
Vanessa Lynne Bryant bio [Office of Legal Policy]
Earlier: The Honorable Vanessa Gilmore: A Delicious Judicial Diva

Vanessa Gilmore Vanessa D Gilmore Judge Above the Law Above the Law judicial diva.jpgIf you’re getting tired of our stories about the DOJ’s Shanetta Cutlar and S&C’s Alexandra Korry, we have a new name to add to our rotation of delightfully high-powered, imperious females. Meet Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (at right), of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Whisper her name out loud: “Vanessa Gilmore.” Doesn’t it even SOUND diva-licious? If she weren’t a federal judge, couldn’t she be a character on “Dynasty”?

But we have reasons other than the sound of her name for declaring this rather attractive jurist to be a judicial diva. From a helpful tipster:

I’d like to bring another judicial diva to your attention: Judge Vanessa Gilmore of the Southern District of Texas. You probably have already read about Judge Gilmore’s ruling in the Enron broadband case vacating Howard’s conviction. I’m not sure she’s a match for Shanetta Cutlar, but she’s no slouch either when it comes to divadom.

[R]umors about her include:

* She has thrown her keys in open court at an attorney (I believe it might have been an AUSA) for calling her “ma’am”;

* She ordered an AUSA to have John Ashcroft personally write her a letter explaining the DOJ’s reasons for seeking the death penalty against one defendant but not others [the Williams case, discussed in more detail below];

* When she didn’t like the particular font counsel used, she told him that she threw his motion in the trash without reading it, and then she ruled against him;

* During trial she is happy to make findings contrary to stipulations of the parties; and

* She encourages ex parte contact with the court and attempts to prevent record-making: any discovery “motions” must be way of a one-page letter to the court. She will then have a hearing which she considers an “oral motion to compel.” She will happily rule without actually seeing any of the discovery propounded.

More about Judge Gilmore, including a discussion of how she got benchslapped by the Fifth Circuit, after the jump.

P.S. We welcome colorful anecdotes about strong personalities within the legal profession regardless of their race, gender, etc. It just so happens that lately we’ve been getting information about women. If you want to tell us about your workplace abuse at the hands of a man — e.g., Eric Krautheimer, of Brokeback Lawfirm infamy — we’re all ears.

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Above the Law 8 Janice Rogers Brown.JPG
“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.

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