Judicial Divas

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Honorable Vanessa Gilmore: A Delicious Judicial Diva”

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dining With a Diva: Lunch with Judge Janice Rogers Brown (Part 2)”

Ed. note: Fans of diversity will be pleased to note that this post has nothing to do with (1) Aaron Charney, (2) Biglaw pay raises, or (3) Shanetta Cutlar.
Above the Law 13 Janice Rogers Brown.JPG
“I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: I am NOT a judicial diva!!!”
(Okay, she didn’t say it quite this emphatically. But Judge Brown did repudiate the “judicial diva” label, when we asked her about it during the Q-and-A session.)
Some time ago — we’re too embarrassed to mention when — we attended a lunch talk here in Washington with Judge Janice Rogers Brown, of the D.C. Circuit. As we’ve previously noted, Judge Brown is a leading judicial diva and possible Supreme Court nominee.
It was a great event, and we took lots of pictures, of the impressively poor quality that you’re used to here at ATL. Our write-up, with pics, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dining With the Diva: Lunch with Judge Janice Rogers Brown (Part 1)”

airplane cabin 2 Above the Law Legal Blog.jpgThe story we’re about to share with you is great, gossipy fun. But we must warn you that it’s not for everyone. It’s on the long side, and it’s aimed at a rather narrow demographic.

It’s most likely to entertain (1) current or former Ninth Circuit clerks and (2) people who follow the federal judiciary very, very closely. If you were a reader of Underneath Their Robes back in the day, then this story is for you.

In recognition of its “inside baseball” nature — and so as not to inflict it upon people who just want Biglaw salary info — we’ve placed the complete story after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Flying the Friendly, Federal Judicial Skies”

Janice Rogers Brown Above the Law Wanda Sykes.JPGLast Friday, we attended a fantastic lunch talk by Judge Janice Rogers Brown (near right; her celebrity doppelganger, Wanda Sykes, is on the far right).
In case you’re not familiar with her, Judge Brown is a leading judicial diva. She’s a former justice of the California Supreme Court and a current member of the D.C. Circuit. In light of her inspirational life story — she’s an African-American female, the daughter of sharecroppers — and her seat on our nation’s most prestigious circuit court, Judge Brown is frequently mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee.
We’ll have more to write about the event later — plus some of our fabulously horrendous photographs, an ATL trademark. For now, though, we just want to share you the best quip of the day (or the “money quote,” as those political bloggers like to say):

“I have NEVER thought of myself as a diva.”

What caused her to utter this sentence? During the Q and A, we got up and asked her (among other things): “Judge Brown, you’re a fabulous judicial diva. But you’re stuck on a court that focuses on administrative law. Do you feel that being on the D.C. Circuit cramps your diva style?”
This was just one of several delightful moments from a great event. We’ll provide a more detailed report later.
Calendar of Lawyer Division Events [Federalist Society]
Fili-BUSTED! Magnificent Judicial Divas [UTR]
Earlier: The Courtroom of Style: Judge Janice Rogers Brown

Listen up, Chief Justice Roberts! Here are two new arguments you can use to make the case for higher judicial pay.
1. From the Drudge Report:
Drudge Report Judge Judy Judith Sheindlin.jpg
Shira Scheindlin Judge Judith Sheindlin Judge Judy Above the Law.JPGAccording to Forbes, Judge Judy has a net worth of $95 million. She earns $25 million a year — over 100 times the Chief Justice’s salary.
Random aside: Contrary to rumor, and despite their shared irascibility, Judge Judy Sheindlin (at left) and Judge Shira Scheindlin (S.D.N.Y.; at right) are NOT related. As you can see, their last names are spelled differently. Despite this difference, Judge Scheindlin of the Southern District regularly receives telephone calls from people in search of televised justice.
2. Because of his low pay, Justice Clarence Thomas has been reduced to eating at ESPN Sports Zone.
(Yes, we know, CT got a seven-figure advance for his memoirs. But when you enjoy Corvettes, luxury RVs, and fine cigars, the money goes fast.)
Wonk’d: Barely Legal [Wonkette]
The Richest 20 Women In Entertainment: Judith “Judge Judy” Sheindlin (#13) [Forbes]

Chambermaid cover art Saira Rao Chambermaid Saira Rao.JPGSaira Rao, who wrote the New York Post article we discussed this morning, has a juicy debut novel coming out this summer. Check out the blurb for Chambermaid:

The devil holds a gavel in this wickedly entertaining debut novel about a young attorney’s eventful year clerking for a federal judge. Sheila Raj is a recent graduate of a top-ten law school with dreams of working for the ACLU, but law school did not prepare her for the power-hungry sociopath, Judge Helga Friedman, who greets her on her first day. While her beleaguered colleagues begin quitting their jobs, Sheila is assigned to a high-profile death penalty case and suddenly realizes that she has to survive the year as Friedman’s chambermaid — not just her sanity, but actual lives hang in the balance.

With Chambermaid, debut novelist Saira Rao breaks the code of silence surrounding the clerkship and boldly takes us into the mysterious world of the third branch of US government, where the leaders are not elected and can never be fired. With its biting wit and laugh-out-loud humor, this novel will change everything you think you know about how great lawyers, and great judges, are made.

Saira Rao is well-equipped to write about the world of the federal judiciary. She previously clerked on the Third Circuit for Judge Dolores Sloviter — who has been described as a “judicial diva” and a “tough cookie”.
After clerking for Judge Sloviter, Saira worked at Cleary Gottlieb. She’s a graduate of UVA and NYU Law School.
“Chambermaid” sounds delicious. We’re counting down the days until July 2007!
Chambermaid: A Novel [Amazon.com]
Saira Rao bio [Findlaw]
Saira Rao profile [Friendster]
Update (4:55 PM): The WSJ Law Blog has put up a post that also links to Saira Rao’s NYP article and the Amazon blurb for her forthcoming novel.
Earlier: Biglaw Associates: Take the Money and Run

Edith Jones Edith H Jones Edith Hollan Jones Above the Law.jpgFor years we’ve been huge fans of Judith Edith H. Jones. She had a reputation as a tough, smart, conservative judge. She was known as as a badass of the bench, more than capable of eviscerating counsel or colleagues who crossed her. Her dramatic nickname — “horsewoman of the right-wing apocalypse” — pretty much said it all. (See here, hottie #3.)
(The high-powered Judge Jones was also a recurring Supreme Court short-lister — so frequent a SCOTUS mention, in fact, that Slate once dubbed her “Susan Lucci in Judicial Robes.”)
So our obsession with Judge Jones went way back. How could we not adore such a strong-willed, right-wing judicial diva? Sometimes muttering her full name under our breath — the Honorable Edith Hollan Jones — would make us shiver involuntarily.
This past weekend, at the Federalist Society conference, we actually got to meet Judge Jones. It was a thrill! And we even got to take a picture of her — so cool!
(Alas, Judge Jones forbade us from publishing it on the internet — and we don’t want to be found in contempt. So the picture will have to remain in our personal stash of federal judicial portraits. Sorry!)
In addition, we had the chance to observe Judge Jones up close, while she was in the audience of the final panel of the conference — a magnificent shouting match between social conservatives and libertarians that was nominally entitled “The Role of Government in Defining Our Culture.” (We expect to write more about this steel-cage match panel discussion later.)
We are sad to report, however, that some of these observations have changed our view of Judge Jones. We reveal what we saw, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Edith Jones: And She Brakes for Small Animals, Too”

carolyn kuhl carolyn b kuhl judge.JPGOnce upon a time, there lived a magnificient judicial diva named Carolyn B. Kuhl. She lived in sunny California, Land of the Dancing Raisins.
Judge Kuhl was beautiful, and she was brainy. Her résumé was one brand name after another: Princeton; Duke Law School; a clerkship with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, back when he was on the Ninth Circuit; various high-level positions at the Justice Department, including Deputy Solicitor General; and a partnership at the elite L.A. law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson.
But Carolyn Kuhl was a bit like Cinderella. After tremendous early career successes, she found herself trapped in a state of miserable servitude: a state court judgeship. And not even a state supreme or appellate court judgeship, but a position as a state trial court judge. ICK.
While wicked judicial stepsisters with far less distinguished backgrounds wound up with more prestigious, better-paying federal judgeships, Judge Kuhl was stuck with the judicial equivalent of Cinderella’s floor mopping: hearing civil cases in state court. To add insult to injury, the decrepitude of the state court building sometimes forced Judge Kuhl to conduct hearings out on street corners.
But one day, Prince Charming showed up, bearing a glass slipper. It was President George W. Bush, and the glass slipper was a nomination to the prestigious Ninth Circuit — the nation’s largest, and arguably most influential, federal appeals court. If confirmed to that circuit court, Judge Kuhl might someday be a viable candidate for the United States Supreme Court. She might end up as the belle of the ball — just in a black robe, instead of a white chiffon gown.
Alas, Judge Kuhl never got to try on that glass slipper. Her Ninth Circuit nomination was held up by Senate Democrats, who were pressured into doing so by various liberal interest groups. Eventually Judge Kuhl asked for her nomination to be withdrawn. In the end, her glass slipper was shattered — by partisan politics.
So what happened next to Judge Kuhl? After her Ninth Circuit nomination was scuttled, she decided that she had had enough of the law. She left the judiciary, and she left Los Angeles, in order to start a new life. She moved all the way to New York City, to follow her lifelong, pre-law-school dream: a career in retail fashion.
Once she arrived in the Big Apple, Judge Kuhl found the most perfect storefront on Madison Avenue. It became the new home of her eponymous menswear boutique: Kuhl Man. Here’s a picture:
kuhl man kuhlman carolyn kuhl.JPG
The Kuhlman boutique took off, becoming a mecca for every dandy in the New York metropolitan area (including many partners at the city’s top law firms). And Judge Kuhl lived happily ever after.*
* Okay, this last part about Judge Kuhl leaving the bench to start a clothing store in Manhattan is wholly fabricated. As far as we know, Judge Kuhl continues to serve on the California Superior Court for Los Angeles County.
It’s just that, when we were up in New York this past weekend, we walked past this elegant men’s clothing store named “Kuhl Man.” Seeing this shop immediately triggered thoughts of Judge Carolyn Kuhl. So we stopped in front of the store, whipped out our camera, and took a photograph.
Then we made up this imaginary backstory explaining how the store came into being — and linking it up with the fabulous Judge Kuhl. That’s all. We have a very active imagination.
(Yeah, kinda bizarre. Please, cut us some slack today. It’s a pseudo-holiday — even if many Biglaw associates, as well as many law clerks, are stuck at work right now.)
Fili-BUSTED! Magnificent judicial divas have been stopped dead in their tracks. Now UTR asks: Who is the biggest diva? [UTR]
Judicial Diva, She’s Homeless [UTR]
Kuhlman Company [official website]

stanley mills judge parking.JPGThis is pretty awesome. Of course it’s from Florida, from whence all fabulous things come.

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger.

And you never, ever, pull into Circuit Judge Stanley Mills’ parking spot.

Nichole Delameter spent all day Monday learning that lesson while cooling her flip-flops at the West Pasco Judicial Center.

Mills made Delameter sit in his courtroom for much of the morning after she parked in his reserved spot. He used his 2005 Cadillac to block in her 1990 Oldsmobile until he left at the end of the day.

Some people accuse the judge of overreacting. But let’s view his actions in context:

For the second time in two weeks, the Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge arrived for morning court to find another vehicle in his spot. And just like last week, he pulled behind it, parking perpendicular to the offending vehicle and blocking it in.

Last week he didn’t move his car, the judge said Monday, until the errant driver got this lecture in court: “There’s two perks to the job,” Mills said. “I have my own bathroom, and I have my own parking spot, and you’re not going to get to use either.”

Darn tootin’, Your Honor! And here’s our favorite detail:

It was 3:30 p.m. in the parking lot when remorse gave way to anger. While Judge Mills was still working, his judicial assistant kept moving the Cadillac to let other judges get in and out of their spots. But Delameter’s car was still stuck.

That’ll learn her! And will someone please tell her to buy some closed-toe shoes?
Judge Sentences Car in His Spot to Lockdown [St. Petersburg Times]
A Judge Overreacts [St. Petersburg Times (editorial)]
Judge Stanley Mills [Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida]
(Gavel bang: How Appealing.)

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