Judicial Nominations

Say hello to Justice Liu.

Congratulations to Goodwin Liu — until today Professor Liu, but after today, Justice Liu.

In July, California Governor Jerry Brown nominated the 40-year-old Liu, a law professor at Boalt Hall, to serve on the California Supreme Court. The nomination was subject to the approval of a three-member state commission.

What did the commission have to say about the Liu nomination?

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Sheryl Sandberg

* Shocker: tenured law professors are well-paid (check out their median salaries), and they enjoy high job satisfaction. [TaxProf Blog]

* Congratulations to David Boies and Ted Olson on winning the American Bar Association Medal, for their remarkable work on Perry v. Schwarzenegger (aka the Prop 8 case). [American Foundation for Equal Rights]

* In other LGBT news, lawyer turned pundit Ann Coulter makes nice with the gays, claiming her crown as the “Queen of Fabulous.” [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* Meanwhile, the Queen of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, gets profiled by the New Yorker. Here is Professor Christine Hurt’s take. [The Conglomerate]

* In the law firm world, beauty contests pit one law firm against another. In the strip-club world, beauty contests pit one vajayjay against another. [Fashionista]

Harry Wellington

* If you leave your bag of meth at the tanning salon, don’t go back for it. [Legal Blog Watch]

* The London riots show how technology and social media can be used to commit or to combat criminal activity. [Associate's Mind]

* Obama is taking his time on judicial nominations but at least he’s promoting diversity, reports John Schwartz. [New York Times]

* The ideas that Zach Shemtob and I discussed in our NYT op-ed are explored in greater detail in this (mercifully short) piece for the Tennessee Law Review. [SSRN]

* Harry Wellington, former dean of Yale Law School and New York Law School, RIP. [Yale Law School]

We recently imagined a scenario in which Professor Goodwin Liu, the controversial Boalt Hall law prof whose Ninth Circuit nomination was successfully filibustered, became Justice Goodwin Liu. It now looks like this might happen earlier than we had expected.

But he would be a justice on a non-SCOTUS court (for now). California Governor Jerry Brown just nominated Professor Liu, 40, to serve on the California Supreme Court.

How might Goodwin Liu’s nomination be received by the people of California? He’s smart, he’s liberal — er, progressive — but there’s one potential rub….

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As the first openly gay man to be confirmed as a federal judge, he will be a symbol of how much we have achieved as a country in just the last few decades. And importantly, he will give hope to many talented young lawyers who until now thought their paths might be limited because of their sexual orientation. When Paul becomes Judge Oetken, he will be living proof to all those young lawyers that it really does get better.

– Senator Chuck Schumer, commenting on the confirmation yesterday of Paul Oetken to serve as a judge on the Southern District of New York, by a Senate vote of 80-13.

(Because we are fair and balanced here at Above the Law, we offer a decidedly different perspective on the Oetken confirmation, after the jump.)

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Christine Quinn

As we all await a vote on gay marriage in New York, the New York Observer came out with a wonderful list: the 50 most powerful gay people in New York. They’ve called them “power gays,” and that, my friends, is just fun to say. Here, I’ll use it in a scene.

OLD GUY: Is that guy over there… a gay?
ELIE: No. He’s a POWER gay.

The number one most powerful gay person in New York is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. That makes sense. Christine Quinn could well be the next mayor of New York City, and unlike other potential NYC mayoral candidates, she doesn’t have a penis that can be photographed and disseminated over Twitter.

But, more relevant for our purposes, the power gays include a number of lawyers….

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One of [my handlers during my confirmation process] said, ‘You know, you might want to apologize for some of the things you wrote.’ I said to him, ‘Can we get one thing straight? I am not apologizing.’

I’ve lived the life I’ve wanted to live. I’ve said the things I’ve wanted to say. If you really want me to say I’m sorry, I’ll say, ‘I’m sorry that my life’s work has been misunderstood.’

Harold Koh, current Legal Adviser to the State Department and former Dean of Yale Law School, in recent remarks he delivered at the American Constitution Society’s annual convention. (In the same speech, Koh voiced support for Yale Law graduate Goodwin Liu, whose Ninth Circuit nomination was successfully filibustered.)

That’s very impressive support. Off the top of my head, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. Washington is a small place, and informal channels will generally get word back to the relevant folks in the Senate without a public letter…. But the fact that so many conservative former clerks publicly support [Alison] Nathan’s nomination [to the S.D.N.Y.] is quite impressive.

– Professor Orin Kerr, commenting on a letter signed by 27 former Supreme Court clerks in support of the nomination of Alison J. Nathan, a former law clerk to Justice John Paul Stevens who has been nominated to a judgeship on the Southern District of New York.

I don’t have a problem with appointing an openly gay person. Because they’re not going to try to put sharia law in our laws.

Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate, explaining why he would consider appointing an openly gay person to his cabinet, even though he would not appoint a Muslim to the federal bench or to his cabinet. (Gavel bang: Andrew Sullivan / The Dish.)

Katherine Forrest: You'd smile too if you were this rich.

I recently wrote about Katherine B. Forrest, the celebrated litigatrix nominated to a federal judgeship on the breathtakingly prestigious Southern District of New York. Forrest currently serves as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, but before joining the DOJ she was a longtime partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore — a premier, if not the premier, American law firm. Forrest was one of CSM’s most popular (and most powerful) young partners.

Katherine Forrest has a reputation as an incredible attorney, and she has the awards to prove it (see question 8). Not surprisingly, the ABA deemed her “unanimously well-qualified” as an S.D.N.Y. nominee.

So here’s what I wondered: Why did the amazingly accomplished Forrest, a partner at super-lucrative Cravath for over a dozen years, declare a mere $4.3 million on her net worth statement? Granted, $4.3 million is nothing to scoff at; KBF is rich (even by Elie’s standards). But it seemed to me that a lawyer of her distinction, who was a partner at a top firm for such a long time, should be even richer.

Thanks to information from helpful readers who saw my earlier post, I now know the truth. As it turns out, Katherine Forrest is considerably wealthier than that $4.3 million number suggests.

Way richer, in fact. Let’s find out….

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Katherine Forrest: Why isn't her net worth higher?

As I’ve previously mentioned, one of my favorite parts of the judicial nomination process is the attendant financial voyeurism. Judicial nominees are required to make detailed disclosures about their finances, allowing us to learn about their income and net worth. For example, thanks to her nomination to the Supreme Court last year, we got to learn about Elena Kagan’s net worth.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee released financial disclosure reports for several of President Obama’s recent judicial nominees — including antitrust litigatrix Katherine B. Forrest. Forrest has been nominated to the mind-blowingly prestigious Southern District of New York, perhaps the nation’s finest federal trial court. As a highly regarded lawyer who has won numerous awards and accolades (listed in her SJC questionnaire), Forrest will fit right in if confirmed to the S.D.N.Y. — a superstar among superstars.

The fabulous Forrest currently serves as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s antitrust division. She joined the DOJ last October — a commendable public-service commitment that required her to relinquish her partnership in one of America’s mightiest and most prestigious law firms, Cravath, Swaine & Moore. When she left to pursue government service, Forrest had been a Cravath partner for over 12 years (since 1998), and had been with the firm for about 20 years in all (since 1990).

At the time of her departure for the Justice Department, Katherine Forrest had been taking home hefty paychecks for decades. First she was an associate at Cravath, which pays its people quite well, in case you hadn’t heard. Then she was a partner at the firm (reportedly one of the most well-liked and most powerful younger partners) — from 1998 to 2010, a period in which average profits per partner at CSM routinely topped $2 million and occasionally exceeded $3 million. And remember that Cravath is a lockstep partnership with a reported 3:1 spread, meaning that the highest-paid partners make no more than three times as much as the lowest-paid partners. So it’s not possible that she was earning, say, $400,000, while other partners were earning millions (which can be the case at firms with higher spreads).

In light of the foregoing, what is Katherine Forrest’s net worth, according to her Senate Judiciary Committee financial disclosures? Not as much as you might expect….

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