Judicial Nominations

The appellate court facing the most complex workload in the country is also tiny and overworked. Only the First Circuit has fewer active slots, and with three vacancies, the D.C. Circuit has fewer judges than its sibling courts with 11 active judges.

So it should come as no surprise that some senators are actively trying to shrink the D.C. Circuit.

The crux of their beef is that actually filling the three vacancies on the court would constitute court packing, because no one on the Hill has bothered to pick up an AP U.S. History textbook and figure out what “court packing” means.

But when you strip away the partisan stupidity and actually look at the numbers, there’s a really good argument in favor of “court packing” because this Circuit could use an extra judge or two…

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A minor scandal is brewing in Las Vegas. In a city known for its impeccable ethics and strictly above-board dealings, the legal community is astir over suggestions that a nominee to the federal bench earned her nomination by engineering a windfall for her political sponsor, Senator Harry Reid, with conveniently-timed donations from her law partners.

At what point does sucking up to politicians cross into the appearance of impropriety for prospective federal judges, and how much should the rest of us care?

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Judge Patty Shwartz

* Congratulations to Judge Patty Shwartz on her confirmation to the Third Circuit. She will be sorely missed in the District Court — especially by Judge Hochberg. [People for the American Way]

* And congrats to another alum of my former office, Michael Martinez, who just joined Mayer Brown as a litigation partner. [Mayer Brown]

* “Sometimes the women partners make jokes about men. He forces himself to laugh at the jokes like he doesn’t care, and in the beginning he didn’t care….” [Ms. JD]

* Speaking of objectification, you’ve waited years for this: “The Cast of 12 Angry Men in Order of Hotness.” [The Awl]

* Uganda hates gays, and now they hate miniskirts. God only knows what they’d do to gays in miniskirts. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Two things our readers love: compensation porn and rankings. Which universities pay the highest faculty salaries? [TaxProf Blog]

* Another Yale Law School graduate turned writer: congrats to Steph Cha, whose new novel, Follow Her Home (affiliate link), just got a favorable review in the Los Angeles Times. [Los Angeles Times]

[UPDATE: Hm...well it looks like everyone in D.C. (including Feinstein herself yesterday) was wrong. So she's sticking with her Intelligence chair. This assignment now becomes something of a "what might have been" exercise) Query: what changed? Why would Leahy not take Appropriations? Was he worried about turning Judiciary over to the more conservative Feinstein?]

Daniel Inouye, the second longest serving Senator in history, died on Monday. Inouye had represented the state of Hawaii in Congress as either a Representative or Senator since… well, forever. Inouye took office the day Hawaii became a state and never stopped. He was also an undisputed badass who wasted a German machine gun nest by prying a grenade from his own partially severed arm and throwing it at a guy trying to kill him! This was a more impressive response to having your arm severed that I would have.

But with the loss of Inouye, the Senate has to find a new chair for the powerful Appropriations Committee. Since the Democrats run on strict seniority, noted Batman enthusiast Patrick Leahy of Vermont jumped at that plum assignment.

And here’s where this all comes back to the law. By taking the Appropriations gig, Leahy had to forfeit his role as chair of the Judiciary Committee. Enter Dianne Feinstein, who will take over as the shepherd of the country’s legal policy making for the next Congress.

So what will a Feinstein-led committee look like?

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Judge Lorna Schofield (S.D.N.Y.) looks like my mom. Is she as divalicious? Let’s hope!

* How much could going over the fiscal cliff cost midlevel to senior associates whose bonuses get paid in January? Here’s an estimate. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Congratulations to the newest member of the S.D.N.Y. bench: former Debevoise partner Lorna Schofield, the first person of Filipino descent to be confirmed as an Article III judge. [AABANY]

* Judges in my home state of New Jersey are always so fair-minded. Here’s a great recusal motion, directed at Judge Carol Higbee in the New Jersey Accutane mass tort case. [Reed Smith via Drug and Device Law.]

* Make sure you don’t murder any babies before signing up to meet Nancy Grace. [Charity Buzz]

* Check out Advisable, an innovative new service for helping lawyers connect with clients; it’s free and easy to join. [Advisable (description); Advisable (application form)]

* If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer (affiliate link) for a young lawyer in your life, look no further; Dan Hull has a great recommendation. [What About Clients?]

If you’re interested in Judaism, Supreme Court clerks, or both, there’s a video for you after the jump….

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* In a move to “end the vacancy crisis,” one week after being reelected, and one day after the Senate returned to session, Barack Obama nominated seven people for open seats on federal district courts, including two S.D.N.Y. slots. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Dewey know how much the Los Angeles Dodgers will have to pay the now defunct firm for its work on the team’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case? About $13M — the equivalent of their pitcher’s salary, or 62% of their first baseman’s pay. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Which Biglaw firms in the Am Law 200 are the most LGBT friendly? Overall, of the 145 firms that participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s survey, 71 received perfect scores. Absolutely fabulous! [Am Law Daily]

* The American Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education wants to know what should be done about law schools. This is a time to keep it simple, stupid: change EVERYTHING! [National Law Journal]

* The New York Court of Appeals invoked the Major Disaster Rule for the first time ever, allowing out-of-state attorneys to perform pro bono services for Hurricane Sandy victims. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* William Adams, the Texas family court judge who got caught beating his daughter, returned to the bench yesterday after a year-long suspension. At least he won’t get physical abuse cases, anymore. [Fox News]

* John Coffey, Senior Status Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, RIP. [Journal Sentinel]

* What happens if a Supreme Court clerk violates the Code of Conduct and leaks information to the press at the behest of a justice? At worst, he’d probably be forced to wash dirty socks from the SCOTUS morning exercise class. [National Law Journal]

* “[T]he great expectations when he was elected have not come to fruition.” Making judicial nominations wasn’t a high political priority, so President Barack Obama will be ending his term with just 125 lower-court appointments in the federal judiciary. [New York Times]

* If there’s anything that Paul Ryan’s good at, it’s soliciting money from lawyers and Biglaw firms. Alston & Bird tops the list of legal campaign contributors, with Patton Boggs in a close second. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* Apparently the female reproduction system shuts down to prevent conception upon rape. This improbable tidbit from a man who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. [Wall Street Journal]

* But a great way to take some of the heat off of the “legitimate rape” dude is to break news about another Congressman’s nude swim in the Sea of Galilee while in Israel. Excellent work on this distraction. [POLITICO]

* What crisis? Despite a steep decline in applicants, the average law school’s tuition will climb by more than double the rate of inflation this fall. It’s really heartwarming how they put students first. [National Law Journal]

* Customs agents in Los Angeles seized 20,457 pairs of faux Christian Louboutins that would’ve been worth approximately $18M. For this heinous crime of fashion, the offending shoes will undergo a trial by fire. [CNN]

* Karma sure is a Blitsch. Matthew Couloute, the alleged lawyerly Lothario who got slammed by his exes on LiarsCheatersRUs.com, is now being slammed by someone else: his soon-to-be ex-wife. [New York Post]

* Beauty school dropout, no pube hair trimming days for you! Seventeen female plaintiffs have alleged that a cosmetology instructor subjected them to less-than-sanitary lessons in a federal suit. [New York Daily News]

[L]aw schools are questioning whether or not they are teaching students the right way, and it seems to me that the bench and the bar can engage in serious discussions with the law schools to advise them whether or not, say for the next 20 years… they have the proper approach for teaching those who will soon be the trustees of the law as active practitioners. That is urgent.

– Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking this week at the Ninth Circuit’s Judicial Conference in Maui.

(Justice Kennedy’s defense of Hawaii as a conference venue, after the jump.)

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Judge Paul Watford

Congratulations to the newest member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Honorable Paul J. Watford. On Monday, Watford, currently a 44-year-old partner at the super-elite Munger Tolles & Olson, was confirmed to the federal bench. The vote was 61-34, and it came after a bit of drama in the Senate.

It’s surprising that Watford’s nomination was so contentious, given that he has a number of backers from the right side of the aisle. As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, “[h]is supporters included conservative UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh, who has described Watford as brilliant and ideologically moderate, and attorney Jeremy Rosen, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the conservative Federalist Society” (and a noted appellate lawyer, who has appeared before in these pages).

That’s not all. Watford clerked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, one of a handful of prominent conservative or libertarian judges on the (generally liberal) Ninth Circuit. If you look at the ranks of former Kozinski clerks, you’ll see many members in good standing of the vast right-wing conspiracy (and some who are not, like Paul Watford — who went on to clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and was nominated to the Ninth Circuit by a Democratic president).

Now that the handsome Watford has joined his superhottie boss on the bench, we have a trivia question: Who is the circuit judge with the most former law clerks to join him on the Court of Appeals during his lifetime?

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I’m not sure if everyone has noticed, but right now in America gay people are the only people it’s okay to be openly bigoted against. Think about it, you can’t say that Obama can’t be president because he’s black. You have to dress it up and say crap like “he’s Kenyan,” or “he’s a communist,” or whatever. You can’t say that women’s health isn’t important. You have to say “birth control is for sluts,” or something that means the same thing, but allows you to say that “this isn’t a war on women.”

But with gay people, you can openly discriminate against them, and find a bunch of lawmakers who will applaud you. It’s not going to cost you a job. Nobody is going to pull your funding. Hell, North Carolina just put it in their constitution that it’s okay to deny gay people a basic civil right. How sick is that? A constitutional amendment that one group of people doesn’t have the same rights as other groups of people. Even the president basically said that while he personally didn’t hate gay people, it was still cool for each state to determine its own level of antipathy toward gay people, and legislate accordingly.

In that world, it’s not a huge surprise that the Commonwealth of Virginia just voted against a judicial appointment for an openly gay prosecutor because he is gay. That’s it. Not “he’s gay and also a terrible prosecutor,” not even “he’s gay and nobody likes him.” Just being gay was enough for the Virginia House to deny this man an appointment everybody agreed he was qualified for.

We’re living in a society where “f*** them queers” is an entirely valid political, social, and legal argument….

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