Judicial Nominations

charles stimson charles d stimson.jpg* Oh good, Cully says pro bono is ok again. [Washington Post; Washington Post (letter to the editor) via WSJ Law Blog]
* “Two things made Christopher Willever’s drunken burglary of a Tobacco Hut even worse as he crawled across the store floor — a lousy belt and his camera-loving backside.” [MSNBC]
* U.S. Attorneys’ increasing rate of attrition. [Wall Street Journal via WSJ Law Blog (departures generally); WSJ Law Blog (Kevin Ryan)]
* Tennessee is tennetaxin’ illegal drugs. [Time]
* Time for new business cards and letterhead over at Wiley Rein & Fielding [Legal Times]
* The mystery raised here has been answered. Richard Posner isn’t the only federal government official who likes to blog. [Opinion Juris]
* Gay Sullivan & Cromwell partner David Braff, to the New York Times: “I’ve been openly gay since I arrived at this firm in 1984. There’s absolutely no atmosphere of hostility toward gay people here.”
[New York Times via DealBook]
* The fight over whether Judge Stephen S. Trott’s seat on the Ninth Circuit belongs to Idaho or California has been resolved — for now. [How Appealing]

Donald Stout house Blackbery RIM NTP NPT.JPG* Over at the Justice Department, the bad-ass Shanetta Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, takes no prisoners.
* Not even summer interns can escape her wrath.
* But hey, at least they get to go back to school. Full-time attorneys can escape only by leaving the Section — provided that Shanetta doesn’t get to them first.
* Speaking of job changes, meet your new White House counsel: Fred Fielding, of Wiley Rein & Fielding (who served as White House counsel under President Reagan).
* Next time you go out for pizza, leave the corporate lawyers at home.
* Pentagon official Charles Stimson doesn’t like how Guantanamo Bay detainees are getting pro bono representation from some of the country’s top law firms. Don’t they have better things to be doing with their pro bono time?
* Michael Nifong manages a Houdini-like escape from the debacle known as the Duke lacrosse team rape case.
* Celebrity law professors Noah Feldman and Jeannie Suk, whom you have just dubbed Feldsuk, have a really nice house.
* But not as nice as the $7 million mansion of patent lawyer Donald Stout (aerial view at right).
* Federal judicial nominees: Out with the old, in with the new.
* Chief Judge Michael Boudin (1st Cir.): You like him, you really like him.
* Maybe it’s because he’s such a big feeder judge. Interestingly enough, though, he has only placed one clerk so far at the Supreme Court for October Term 2007.*
(But Chief Judge Boudin feeds mostly to Justice Breyer and Justice Souter. The former isn’t finished hiring yet, and the latter hasn’t even started.)

Terrence Boyle Terry Boyle Terence Boyle Terrence W Boyle Judge.jpgHere is some late-breaking judicial nomination news:
1. An update to our prior coverage of the withdrawal of the “Radioactive Four.” As one of you points out, it seems that Judge Terrence Boyle (E.D.N.C.), nominated to the Fourth Circuit, wanted to continue fighting.
From the latest version of the AP story:

William Haynes, William G. Myers III and Michael Wallace all asked to have their appointments withdrawn, these officials said. Judge Terrence Boyle was informed of the White House’s decision, according to an ally….

Lars H. Liebeler, a Washington lawyer, said in a telephone interview that Boyle, unlike Wallace, Haynes and Myers, did not submitted a letter asking to be withdrawn but was told of the president’s intentions.

This makes some sense. Considering that Judge Boyle (above right) is (1) 61 years old and (2) already a sitting federal judge, he’s not really going anywhere — and he doesn’t have much to lose from further fighting. But the White House apparently decided that continuing to push his nomination, in a Senate controlled by the Democrats, wasn’t worth the possible loss of face (or expenditure of political capital).
2. The White House released two more slates of judicial nominees today. See here and here.
The most notable and/or controversial nominees:

(a) Judge Thomas Hardiman (W.D. Pa.), renominated to the Third Circuit, who is the subject of a tempest in a teapot (item #3);

(b) Peter Keisler (OT 1988/Kennedy), renominated to the D.C. Circuit, who isn’t problematic personally, but has a “seat issue” (for years Republicans were saying that the last seat on the D.C. Circuit is unnecessary);

(c) Judge Vanessa Lynne Bryant, renominated to the District of Connecticut, who received an “unqualified” rating from the ABA; and

(d) James Rogan, renominated to the Central District of California, who once served as a floor manager in the Clinton impeachment fight, back when he was in the House of Representatives.

These nominees aren’t THAT controversial, at least compared to the Radioactive Four. We think that they ultimately can (and should) make it through the Senate Judiciary Committee, then win confirmation by the full Senate.
But the ascendant Democrats may want to flex their muscles. And one way to do so would be by delaying, or defeating, one of these nominations.
3. Here’s an AP article about Leslie Southwick, nominated to the Fifth Circuit seat formerly held by Judge Charles Pickering Sr. (the seat that Michael Wallace was up for, before he withdrew).
Southwick is a former state appellate judge in Mississippi. As Howard Bashman notes, maybe the third time will be the charm for this hard-to-fill seat.
Bush Judicial Nominees Ask to Withdraw [Associated Press]
Senators say Bush nominating Southwick for 5th Circuit [Associated Press]
Nominations Sent to the Senate for the Judiciary [White House via How Appealing]
Nominations Sent to the Senate [White House via How Appealing]
Earlier: And They Will Back Down

Tom Petty Won't Back Down.jpg“You can stand them up at the gates of hell,
And they will back down.”

A new Senate. A new White House counsel. And new hope for judicial nominees who might actually get confirmed. In our lifetimes.
The Bush Administration’s four most controversial judicial nominees, referred to in some Senate Judiciary Committee circles as “the Radioactive Ones,” are withdrawing (or have already pulled out, in the case of Michael Wallace). White House lawyers breathe sighs of relief, delighted by the prospect of saving some face.
From the AP:

In a concession to the Senate’s new Democratic majority, four of President Bush’s appeals court appointees have asked to have their nominations withdrawn, Republican officials said Tuesday.

These officials said that William Haynes, William Myers and Terrence Boyle had all decided to abandon their quest for confirmation. Another nominee, Michael Wallace, let it be known last month that he, too, had asked Bush to withdraw his nomination.

One has to wonder: Did all four willingly withdraw their names from consideration, or did they do so under some combination of pressure or pleading from the White House?
(Also, what will the ConfirmThem crew have to say about this?)
Bush Judicial Nominees Ask to Withdraw [Associated Press via How Appealing]
Breaking Judge News [NRO / The Corner]

Rachel Brand Rachel Brand Rachel Brand Above the Law.jpg* Some interesting comments about Harriet Miers getting a Fifth Circuit nomination, as well as speculation about who might replace her as White House counsel. [ConfirmThem]
(We second the suggestion of Rachel Brand (at right). Brand previously worked in the White House counsel’s office, before her appointment to head the Office of Legal Policy at the Justice Department.)
* From an Instpaundit correspondent: “I’m no law prof, but isn’t the presumption of innocence most useful before a pile of facts come out indicating that the accused are, in fact, innocent?” [Instapundit]
* Speaking of which, check out Best Defense, which “seeks to place the presumption of innocence front and center.” [Bag and Baggage]
* Jeez, he’s even more of a tool than we thought. Can someone please talk some sense into him about 2008? [Althouse]
* Backlash to the backlash against (allegedly) excessive executive pay. [Point of Law via Dealbreaker]
* Amen. With the exception of news aggregators, blogs are by their nature idiosyncratic, rather than comprehensive. So don’t get your briefs in a wad when we fail to write about your pet topic. [Volokh Conspiracy; Althouse]

Mike Wallace Michael Wallace Michael B Wallace Phelps Dunbar Fifth Circuit.JPGVia How Appealing, of course (because who else besides us and Howard Bashman is blogging right now):
1. Controversial Fifth Circuit nominee Michael Wallace (at right), a member of the Elect (Rehnquist/OT 1977) who was still rated “unqualified” by the ABA, will ask President Bush to withdraw his nomination next week.
This is a smart and gracious move by Wallace, which will allow the White House to save some face. Since Wallace couldn’t even get confirmed in the Republican-controlled 109th Congress, his chances of confirmation in the 110th Congress would have been next to nil.
Manuel Real Manuel L Real Manuel Lawrence Real Judge.jpg2. Disciplinary sanctions may be imposed upon Judge Manuel Real (C.D. Cal.), the Los Angeles federal judge accused of improperly intervening in a bankruptcy case to rescue a damsel probationer in distress (Deborah Canter, routinely described in news accounts as “a comely female”).
Ladies and gentlemen, chivalry is officially dead. What’s the point of being “a comely female” if you can’t get favorable treatment from the federal courts?
Judge Real has appealed the censure ruling of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council to the Judicial Conference of the United States. It’s not clear when they will rule.
Judicial hopeful steps aside [Clarion-Ledger]
Michael B. Wallace bio [Phelps Dunbar]
Web error reveals censure of U.S. judge [Los Angeles Times]
Manuel L. Real bio [FJC]

Marissa Cooper Alex The OC girl girls lesbian kiss.jpgWe’re obsessed with federal judges. And we’re fascinated by lesbians (in a strange, quasi-sociological way). So of course we must weigh in on the whole Senator Sam Brownback/Judge Janet Neff controversy.
The uber-conservative Senator Brownback (R-KS), a likely standard-bearer for social conservatives in 2008, had been blocking Judge Neff’s nomination to the federal bench — currently she’s a Michigan state-court judge — because she once attended a same-sex commitment ceremony. For lesbians.
But earlier this week, Sen. Brownback announced that he would permit a vote on Janet Neff’s nomination. We see this as good news.
Call us libertine (or libertarian), but Senator Brownback’s original position was a bit much. We agree with Dan Markel’s characterization of it as “asinine” and “obtuse.” Regardless of your views on gay marriage, it seems unwarranted to hold up a judicial nomination because the nominee once went to a party. Back in 2002. For lesbians.
(And we’d add that Judge Neff is merely a District Court nominee. How much damage can she do there? If she issues an opinion holding that the U.S. Constitution guarantees lesbians the right to marry, she’ll be reversed faster than you can say “power tools.” And if Brownback is worried that she’d use her judicial authority to go around marrying Sapphists left and right, it’s too late — she’s already a state court judge.)
Here’s a little more background (and commentary):

Janet T. Neff — the judicial nominee whose nomination to the federal bench is being delayed while Sen. Sam Brownback investigates what, exactly, she did at a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony — says that she attended the event merely as a friend and did not act out of line. In a letter to Brownback that was quoted today by the AP, Neff wrote:

“The ceremony, which was entirely private, took place in Massachusetts, where I had no authority to act in any official capacity and where, in any event, the ceremony had no legal effect…”

“When Mary and her partner, Karen Adelman, asked me to participate in their commitment ceremony by delivering a homily, it was not different from being asked by my own daughters to be part of an important event in their lives.”

And we think we speak for everyone when we say: BURN HER!!!!!! SHE’S A….COMMITMENT CEREMONY ATTENDEE?!?!?!?!

It’s unclear what Brownback will do next to try and stop Neff’s nomination. However, rumor has it he is currently in his lab testing hairs that he plucked from Neff’s head to see if any of “the gay” happened to seep in through her scalp and penetrate her soul.

Even more dubious than Senator Brownback’s original position was this idea:

Mr. Brownback… said he would also no longer press a proposed solution he offered on Dec. 8 that garnered even more criticism: that he would remove his block if Judge Neff agreed to recuse herself from all cases involving same-sex unions.

In an interview with the Times, Professor Charles Fried, the prominent conservative legal scholar, explained why this proposal would be problematic. For lesbians. And the judiciary, too.
But wait — it’s not over yet. Senator Brownback will allow a vote on Janet Neff, but he wants more hearings, so he can question her further about her participation in the lesbianic rituals. (Read: grandstand for Republican primary voters.)
We’ve rambled on long enough; now it’s your turn. After all, YOU are Time’s Person of the Year.
Please help out Senator Brownback. In the comments, please suggest questions for Brownback to propose to Judge Neff if supplemental hearings take place. Thanks.
Update: Some well-expressed views on this from Captain Ed (via Instapundit).
Brownback Wants to Re-Question Nominee [Associated Press via How Appealing]
Senator Removes His Block on Federal Court Nominee [New York Times]
This time of year, however, it’s usually the free booze, Ecstasy, and mistletoe [PrawfsBlawg]
Yes, Ms. Neff, but when the women kissed — did you look at them for a period extending three seconds? [Good As You]

Third Circuit 3rd circuit 3d circuit 3d cir.jpegA few quick updates on our former stomping grounds, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit:
1. There’s been some speculation about who might be nominated for the Third Circuit seat previously held by Justice Alito. What we’re now hearing is that it’s probably going to Judge Noel Hillman, a former high-ranking Justice Department official, just confirmed to the District Court (D.N.J.).
This might be surprising, considering that Judge Hillman has barely warmed the district court bench. His investiture as a district judge took place only a few weeks ago.
Noel Hillman Noel L Hillman Noel Lawrence Hillman Noel Laurence Hillman judge Above the Law.jpgBut nominating Judge Hillman to the court of appeals actually makes political sense for the White House — especially in its current, weakened state. President Bush doesn’t have a great deal of political capital right now, and he’ll be dealing with a Democrat-controlled Senate come January (assuming Sen. Johnson hangs in there).
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.
Of course, this is just a rumor. And rumors can be wrong. So stay tuned.
2. Judge Kent Jordan, formerly on the Delaware district court bench, was sworn in as the newest Third Circuit judge on Friday morning. The ceremony was small and private. Judge Jordan was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month, by a vote of 91-0, before the end of the 109th Congress.
3. Another Third Circuit nominee, Judge Thomas Hardiman (W.D. Pa.), may not be as easy a sell as one might have thought. Senate Democrats are tut-tutting him for making political contributions to Republican candidates before he was nominated for his district judgeship.
Call us cynical, but this strikes us as no big deal. Making (perfectly legal) campaign contributions to U.S. senators? How else do you become a federal judge?
Seriously, this is not a new practice. Political patronage goes back to, like, the Jackson Administration. And strategic campaign giving has been engaged in by judicial nominees on both sides of the aisle (PDF).
This is why we were unimpressed with Salon’s “four-month investigation” showing that, lo and behold, politicians reward their contributors with federal judgeships. We could have told you that in four seconds.
Noel L. Hillman bio [FJC]
Senate Confirms Kent Jordan to 3rd Circuit, Replacing Senior Judge Jane Roth [Legal Intelligencer]
Judge Kent Jordan Confirmed to the Third Circuit [How Appealing]
Kent A. Jordan bio [FJC]
Another Bush judge on the hot seat [Salon.com via How Appealing]
Thomas M. Hardiman bio [FJC]
Riding Circuit — In a Taxicab? [Underneath Their Robes]
Non-Scandal [Committee for Justice Blog]

Confirmation Wars Ben Wittes Benjamin Wittes Above the Law.jpgHey, guess what? In our best impression of Howard Bashman, we’re going to tell you all about a recent lunch of ours.
On Tuesday, we had an absolutely delightful lunch with Benjamin Wittes. He’s an editorial writer for the Washington Post, specializing in legal affairs, and the author of a new book about the judicial confirmation process: Confirmation Wars: Preserving Independent Courts in Angry Times.
We recommend Confirmation Wars most highly. It’s tremendously well-researched, as well as fascinating and fun to read. (Even the footnotes are juicy.) It has the rigor of an academic book — it’s published in connection with the Hoover Institution at Stanford — but the readability of, well, a non-academic book. And it came out after the Roberts and Alito confirmations were concluded, so it’s informed by those recent experiences.
Wittes ably diagnoses the problems with the current judicial nomination and confirmation process, then offers up some solutions. And he’s commendably fair-minded and non-ideological in his assessment of a highly controversial subject. (To learn more about the substantive views expressed in the book, check out this article, from the Harvard Law Record.)
Starting in January, Wittes will be away from the Post. He’s going on a six-month book leave, to work on his next project: a book about the federal appeals court. We can’t wait to read it!
In case you’re wondering, we lunched at Georgia Brown’s, just down the street from the Post offices. We both had the soup special — black bean, if memory serves — and the fried chicken salad, which was scrumptious, even if not very healthy for a salad. And we gossiped incessantly about federal judges and judicial nominees. What a blast!!!
Confirmation Wars: Preserving Independent Courts in Angry Times [Amazon.com]
Confirmation Wars: Ben Wittes on How to Preserve Judicial Independence [Harvard Law Record]

Capitol building Above the Law Legal Blog 2.JPGVia Howard Bashman, we learned of the cancellation of tomorrow’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. This piqued our curiosity: What was the hearing for, and why was it canceled?
So we did a little poking around. We learned that the SJC was planning to hold confirmation hearings for an “unspecified handful of district court nominees.” But since these nominations “were going nowhere fast,” in the final week of the 109th Congress, the cancellation is really “no big deal.”
Meanwhile, in other nomination-related news, Sean Rushton — executive director of the Committee for Justice, which crosses swords with Nan Aron “promotes constitutionalist judicial nominees” — is stepping down. He’s leaving for a position with the Bush Administration.
Rushton will be replaced by Curt Levey, who has served as CFJ’s general counsel since the summer of 2005 (and who also blogs over at ConfirmThem, an excellent source of nomination news and gossip). Congratulations to Curt on his new position!
NOTICE OF COMMITTEE HEARING CANCELLATION [Senate Judiciary Committee via How Appealing]
Changes at CFJ [Confirm Them]
CFJ Announces Curt Levey as Executive Director [Committee for Justice]

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