Judicial Nominations

Harriet Miers Harriet E Miers Harriet Ellan Miers Harriet Elan Miers Above the Law.JPGSigh. Too much to write about, not enough time (or energy). We should have written about this on Tuesday. But since we didn’t, we now have the luxury of assembling a post by commenting on what other people have already written — and snarkily noting that they all say the same thing.
It all started with this article from the Washington Post (via the Huffington Post):

It was John G. Roberts Jr., now the chief justice of the United States, who suggested [Harriet] Miers to Bush as a possible Supreme Court justice, according to the [new] book [Dead Certain, an examination of the Bush presidency, by Robert Draper].

Miers, the White House counsel and a Bush loyalist from Texas, did not want the job, but Bush and first lady Laura Bush prevailed on her to accept the nomination, Draper writes.

Sounds juicy, right? But not so fast.
If you’re already familiar with this controversy, you can probably skip the rest of this post. But if not — or if you are, but want some commentary on the commentary — you can read more after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Harriet Miers: Who Deserves the Blame?”

Nina Totenberg small NPR Georgetown Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPGEver since our original request for colorful stories about the delicious Nina Totenberg, the doyenne (or maybe the dean?) of the Supreme Court press corps, we’ve experienced an avalanche of anecdotes about this larger-than-life legal journalist.
We still have a few reports in the queue. Here’s the latest contribution:

Any discussion of Totenberg must include John Hockenberry’s recountings of her diva-like attitude around the NPR newsroom. He writes about her in his well-known memoir, Moving Violations. Note that Hockenberry implies Totenberg will ruin the career of anyone who crosses her. [Ed. note: YIKES.]

Go to Amazon and search for “Totenberg” in the book, John Hockenberry, Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence. Starting around page 174, you’ll read this…

If you haven’t tired of reading about Ms. Nina — we know we haven’t, but everyone’s different — check out the rest of this post, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nina Totenberg: The Diva That Keeps On Delivering”

* When the music stopped, Craig Morford, interim U.S. attorney in Nashville, was left standing. So now Morford must fill Paul McNulty’s uncomfortable shoes as Deputy Attorney General — after several others apparently passed on the job. [Washington Post; New York Times]
* New Jersey lawyer Shalom Stone may need to be as charming as Shalom Harlow to win confirmation to the Third Circuit. [The Hill (ATL shout-out!) via How Appealing]
* Dow Jones director David Li could be in trouble with the SEC. Oh Wells. [DealBreaker]
* Go shorty. [MSNBC]

car wreck car crash Above the Law blog.jpgHe’s not a judge yet, so we can’t bestow our coveted Judge of the Day award upon him. But he has secured the Democratic nomination for a judgeship, in Philadelphia — which means he has a decent shot of being elected.
Then again, whether Willie Singletary gets elected to the bench may depend upon how much the electorate appreciates irony. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Willie Singletary won a Democratic nomination for Traffic Court last week despite being a scofflaw of major proportions.

As of primary day, Singletary, 26, owed $11,427.50 for 55 violations, including reckless driving, driving without a license, careless driving, driving without registration, and driving without insurance.

In fact, a bench warrant had been issued for his arrest – a fact made public after the election by Bernard Strain, who lost in the Democratic primary for Traffic Court but who won a Republican nomination.

A little more discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged”

Noel Hillman Noel L Hillman Noel Lawrence Hillman Noel Laurence Hillman judge Above the Law.jpgBack in December, we suggested that Judge Noel Hillman (D.N.J.) was probably going to be nominated to the Third Circuit. We wrote: “[N]ominating Judge Hillman to the court of appeals actually makes political sense for the White House — especially in its current, weakened state…. Picking a nominee who made it through the Senate just a few months ago would be a shrewd move. Since the two New Jersey senators supported Hillman for the district court, it would be awkward for them to oppose him for the circuit court now.”
But things appear to have changed. From the Newark Star-Ledger:

In an abrupt about-face, President Bush has decided against nominating Noel Hillman, a veteran prosecutor and now federal judge in Camden, to the seat on the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that was held by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr….

Hillman confirmed the news. He said the speculation about his possible elevation to the court of appeals was “flattering,” adding he now has “every confidence that our president will choose someone for the current vacancy worthy of his trust, worthy of the position, and worthy of Senate confirmation.”

Some questions for our readers:

1. What’s behind the White House’s change of heart? Was it, as suggested by the Star-Ledger, concern “that Hillman’s Senate confirmation hearing could become an inquisition into the behind-the-scenes operations of the Justice Department”? Or is there something more here, perhaps specific to Judge Hillman?

(If the White House is worried about Hillman hearings turning into another fishing expedition into the DOJ, we can hardly blame them. After all, look at all the dirty laundry that got aired when former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified yesterday. What a mess!)

2. Now that Judge Hillman is out of the running, who is likely to get the nod?

Please send us your tips by email (subject line: “Third Circuit”). Thanks.
The Auditor [Newark Star-Ledger via NJ.com]
President Intervened in Dispute Over Eavesdropping [New York Times]
Earlier: A Third Circuit Update

Jennifer Elrod 2 Judge Jennifer W Elrod Fifth Circuit Texas Above the Law blog.jpgAs we mentioned yesterday, Judge Jennifer W. Elrod, a state trial court judge in Texas, has been nominated to the Fifth Circuit. The Texas Lawyer has an interesting article about Judge Elrod:

Houston lawyers who have tried cases before [Judge Elrod] say she has earned a reputation as a fair and smart state district judge.

“I think the most disappointing factor about her getting nominated is losing her off the bench in Harris County,” says Stephen Boutros, a Houston plaintiffs attorney.

“She often won’t rule in my favor, but it doesn’t matter,” says Boutros of Stephen Boutros LTD. “I would rate her the top judge I’ve ever been in front of. She understands the law. She can get a grasp of the issues in a matter of moments as if it were her own case.”

Boutros believes Elrod has the potential to follow in the footsteps of [Judge Patrick] Higgonbotham — a seasoned and respected judge who was a moderating force on the 5th Circuit — a court known as one of the most conservative federal appellate courts in the nation.

“She’s going to be an absolute centrist,” Boutros says. “She is intellectually honest and she’s not an ideologue.”

Judge Elrod sounds like a great pick. Our only disappointment: that President Bush didn’t nominate this Jennifer Elrod instead.
(But then again, in terms of qualifications for the Fifth Circuit, a JD from Harvard Law is probably more relevant than a 36D from Boobs ‘R Us.)
P.S. To those of you who think that we overuse the term “diva,” please note that we have NOT applied the term to Jennifer Elrod. Based on what we’ve heard, she’s extremely nice and down-to-earth, with a great sense of humor.
190th District Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod Nominated to 5th Circuit [Texas Lawyer]
Earlier: Some Judicial Nomination News

Time for a few updates on a subject near and dear to our heart, which we’ve been neglecting as of late: federal judicial nominations. Here’s the latest news:
Jennifer Elrod Judge Jennifer W Elrod Above the Law blog.jpg1. Texas state court judge Jennifer Elrod (at right), whom we previously identified as a possible nominee to the Fifth Circuit (and compared to Jennifer Aniston), has been officially nominated to that court. We’ve heard good things about Judge Elrod and wish her the best of luck in the confirmation process.
2. Connecticut state court judge Vanessa Bryant, discussed previously here, has been confirmed to the District of Connecticut.
3. Earlier this month, the White House sent a raft of judicial nominations over to the Senate. Nothing terribly exciting.
The two most controversial nominees in the bunch: state court judge Janet Neff (D. Mich.), and trial lawyer Richard Honaker (D. Wyo.). They may generate opposition on opposite sides of the aisle. Neff got a lot of grief from the conservative Sen. Sam Brownback for having attended a lesbian commitment ceremony. Honaker may be targeted by liberals for his record of strong opposition to abortion.
Here’s a random bit of trivia about Honaker: he was a Harvard classmate of Al Franken. If Honaker runs into opposition from liberals (despite being a trial lawyer and card-carrying member of ATLA), will Franken testify in his defense before the Senate Judiciary Committee?
(The article also mentions Billy Crystal, but we don’t believe Billy Crystal went to Harvard.)
Update: HA! The Billy Crystal mystery is revealed. Check out this comment.
Nomination Sent to the Senate [WhiteHouse.gov]
Nominations Confirmed [Senate.gov via How Appealing]
Nominations Sent to the Senate [WhiteHouse.gov]
Harris County civil judge nominated to federal bench [Houston Chronicle]
Bush renominates five Michiganians to federal judgeships [Detroit News]
Thomas announces judgeship nomination for Rock Springs lawyer [Casper Star-Tribune via How Appealing]

* This isn’t Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas, but in a way, people are still lost. [Chicago Tribune]
* Speaking of Paris, Texas, here’s some trivia for you: the brother of one of its stars’ former partners (and father of one of her children as well as Pam’s new competition on The Office) was nominated to the federal bench last week and seems well-liked by all. Wasn’t that fun? [Seattle Times]
* More lawyers needed! For real. [Legal Profession Blog]
* I’m not judging the child-rearing methods (kiddie yoga! kiddie discos! kiddie Mandarin!) of urban yuppie/hipster parents, but nothing beats old-fashioned tough love. [Mail Tribune]
* It’s the crocodiles that made her look fat. “Crocs” make only fat people look fat. [Live Science]
* The weather’s warming up, so what better time for a cook-out? [New York Sun]

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

Bill Burck William Burck William A Burck Above the Law.JPGHere’s some (belated) news about notable moves at the Department of Justice and the White House:
New Arrivals at the DOJ:
We enjoy breathlessly reporting on the meteoric career trajectories of attractive women. And attractive men, too.
Over at Main Justice, two handsome gents have come onboard:
* The fresh-faced Thomas Dupree, Jr., formerly a partner in the Washington office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has joined the Justice Department as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division.
For those of you outside the Beltway, being a DAAG is a big deal. Dupree, who is one of Washingtonian magazine’s 40 top lawyers under 40, will oversee a staff of over 200.
* William Burck (above right, accepting bedsheets from anti-Cindy Sheehan protesters in Crawford, TX) — a former Kozinski clerk and member of the Elect (OT 1999 / Kennedy), who should have been nominated as a White House hottie — is leaving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Burck, who served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Staff Secretary, is heading over to the DOJ’s Criminal Division. We don’t know the title of his new post; if you do, please drop us a line.
This marks a return for Burck to the DOJ, since he previously served as an assistant United States attorney in the magical Southern District of New York. Being at the Criminal Division means that he’ll get to work with the fantabulous Alice Fisher — one of the few DOJ divas who could hold her own against Shanetta Cutlar.
Elizabeth Papez Elizabeth Petrela Papez Kirkland Ellis OLC Above the Law.jpg* Elizabeth Petrela Papez (at right), a blonde beauty and Kirkland & Ellis partner, is heading over to the Office of Legal Counsel (aka the Finishing School for the Elect). She will be serving as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General.
DOJ Internal Promotion:
* Papez is filling a spot that was vacated due to a promotion. DOJ wunderkind Steven Engel — like Bill Burck, a Yale Law School grad / Kozinski clerk / Kennedy clerk (OT 2001) — has been promoted to Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the OLC. Steve Engel is married to another member of the Elect: Susan Engel (OT 2001/Scalia), yet another partner at K&E.
Conservative legal circles are so incestuous, aren’t they?
White House Internal Promotion:
Actually, make that REALLY incestuous:
* Bill Burck’s shoes in the White House are being filled by Brent McIntosh (previously described in these pages as “strappingly handsome”). McIntosh is, like Burck, another Yale Law grad and former Sullivan & Cromwell associate.
McIntosh is being promoted from within. He previously served in the White House Counsel’s office. He is a former law clerk to two conservative legal heavyweights: Judges Dennis Jacobs (2d Cir.) and Laurence Silberman (D.C. Cir.).
White House Departure:
* Dabney Friedrich, who served as associate counsel to the President, will be nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, according to the Legal Times.
(Dabney Friedrich was previously featured in a photo caption contest at Underneath Their Robes. Alas, due to her lack of familiarity with the movie American Pie, the “band camp” reference had to be explained to her by others.)
Bush to Nominate Former White House Associate Counsel to D.C. Court [Legal Times]

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