Judicial Divas

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.)

Diane Boswell Judge Diane Boswell judicial diva cellphone cell phone Above the Law blog.jpgInappropriate cell phone use — we’ve seen them used during wedding ceremonies — has gotten out of control. So it’s great to see a tough-minded jurist take a stand against this growing problem:

A judge detained and questioned a row of spectators when a cell phone rang for a third time in her courtroom, later ordering two people to serve community service for contempt of court.

When no one admitted having the ringing phones Wednesday, Lake County Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell told all five people in the row to sit in chairs reserved for jail inmates. They stayed there for more than an hour until the morning court call ended.

Boswell found three people in contempt of court because they initially refused to say who had the ringing phones.

Ah yes — a time-honored technique for disciplining second-graders. But if people are going to act like discourteous morons, we can’t fault Judge Boswell for treating them as such.
Judge Detains Five Over Ringing Phones [Associated Press]

shira scheindlin judge.jpgWe briefly linked to this item yesterday, but now we have a little more to add. Here’s what the New York Post reported:

[Organized crime defendant John "Junior"] Gotti helped Manhattan federal Judge Shira Scheindlin celebrate her 60th birthday by serenading her from his seat at the defense table yesterday.

“I led the attack,” Gotti said outside of court. “Everyone was saying, ‘We’re going to sing, we’re going to sing,’ and then they started chickening out.”

The bizarre and unusual birthday celebration was carried out in the courtroom – which was mysteriously closed to the public – before jury selection in Gotti’s racketeering trial resumed for a third day.

What makes this even more unusual is how the judge reacted:

Later in the day the judge got some chuckles when she agreed to excuse a potential juror who had plans to travel to Paris to celebrate her mother’s 60th birthday. “I’m particularly sympathetic to 60th birthdays,” Scheindlin said.

It’s surprising to hear that Judge Scheindlin took things so well. Although she’s not related to “Judge Judy” (a.k.a. Judge Judith Sheindlin — different spelling), one couldn’t be blamed for thinking so. The Honorable Shira has a reputation has a holy terror. She works her clerks like dogs, berates them frequently, and sometimes even makes them cry. Don’t pee on her robe and tell her it’s raining!
So Judge Scheindlin’s good-humored reaction to the in-court birthday festivities is somewhat unexpected. Guess it just goes to show that even the toughest judge can be buttered up with birthday wishes.

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