Judicial Nominations

William Wilkins William W Wilkins Jr Billy Wilkins.JPGLast week was a busy one in legal news, so we apologize for our tardiness in bringing you this news. As first reported at the South Carolina Appellate Law Blog, and later picked up by The State, Chief Judge William Wilkins is retiring as chief judge of the Fourth Circuit.

William “Billy” Wilkins of Greenville is stepping down as chief judge of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, a position he has held since 2003….

Wilkins, 64, in a prepared statement Thursday afternoon said he had notified President Bush of his decision to step down effective July 1, 2007.

“It’s time to move on,” he said.

The obvious questions. First, who will replace him as Chief Judge?

Under federal seniority rules, his successor would be Karen Williams of Orangeburg, who would become the first woman to hold that position in the circuit. Williams, 55, is the next senior judge younger than 65.

Karen Williams Karen J Williams Above the Law.jpgJudge Williams, you may recall, is a judicial hottie, described by the New York Times as “a tall, slender woman with delicate features and a regal carriage.” Rumored to have both a private plane and a personal shopper, the stylish Judge Williams is known around her hometown of Orangeburg as “Miss Karen.”
(Yes, she’s married. But as a fellow South Carolina native explains, “the first thing one must learn about Orangeburg is that every woman is referred to as Miss,” regardless of her marital status.)
And who might be nominated to the Fourth Circuit to fill the new vacancy on the court? Some speculation appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Chief Judge Wilkins Makes Way for “Miss Karen””

stack of bills cash money.jpg* It’s all about the benjamins, baby. Bonus season is upon us. And we’re standing by to broadcast every move. So please email us with any news, rumors, and leaked memos about bonuses.
* Truthful tips are especially welcome. Look for the first wave of bonus announcements in the coming week.
* And check out the most anal retention letter ever.
* In non-Biglaw developments, it was a busy week for the Supreme Court. They heard all about EPA regulatory discretion, the Federal Circuit’s recondite jurisprudence, and other fun topics.
* On tap for the SCOTUS: Ken Starr and a bizarrely fascinating case. It’s like Bill ‘n Monica, all over again. But is it sexy enough for same-day audio-cast? Probably not.
* Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the imminent Democratic takeover is already being felt at the Senate Judiciary Committee. The big white-collar shops are eagerly anticipating lots of new business.
* Speaking of elections, please cast your vote for November 2006 Couple of the Month. And if you’re an NYU Law School student, please forward us the results of voting in the 3L hottie contest.
* In federal appellate judge news, Judge Morris Arnold is recovering nicely, Judge Richard Posner is getting testy, and Judge Frank Easterbrook is now Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook.
* And over in the district court, Judge Lee Rosenthal (S.D. Tex.) is probably out of the running for a promotion to the Fifth Circuit (despite being very highly regarded).
* Finally, in state court land, some judges are getting a little big for their britches robes. They’re mouthing off, railing against immigrants, and making spectacles of themselves. Pipe down, Your Honors, and stay out of trouble.

Arlen Specter 2 Senator Arlen Specter Above the Law.jpgHere’s another excellent article from Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker. It’s about the role played by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), outgoing chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with respect to the recent habeas corpus legislation (aka the Military Commissions Act of 2006).
If you’re confused about the controversy over this legislation, which has wound its way through both the federal courts and the Senate chamber, the article is well worth your time. It explains recent developments in this complex area of law with commendable clarity.
And it also contains fun bits of color and gossip. We collect a few highlights, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Senator Arlen Specter: One Heck of a Squash Player”

Lee H Rosenthal Judge Lee Rosenthal Above the Law.jpgBefore the Thanksgiving break, we wrote a fair amount about some possible nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. We’ll now pick up where we left off, and continue with more detailed profiles of some of the potential nominees we mentioned.
But first, a request. A number of ATL readers have expressed interest in speculation about nominees for the open seats on the Third Circuit (Justice Samuel Alito’s old seat) and Fourth Circuit (Judge J. Michael Luttig’s old seat). If you’ve heard anything interesting on these subjects, please do share.
Today’s possible Fifth Circuit nominee: Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, of the Southern District of Texas. Here are some things we’ve heard from our readers about Judge Rosenthal:

“Best judge on the S.D. Tex. bench, which is actually passably deep. Sweet, rational, bright and tough all in one package.”

“The country could not do better, and I think even hyperpartisan Democrats would be able to see that. She’s my pick if Bush wants to avoid spending any significant political capital.”

“A stellar trial judge who would make a superlative appellate judge. And those two don’t always go hand in hand. See, e.g., Ann Claire Williams of the 7th Circuit (who should have remained an excellent district judge instead of becoming a thoroughly mediocre appellate jurist).”

(Judge Williams, if you’re reading this, please note that these are simply opinions from ATL readers. They do NOT represent our own views.)
More comments about Judge Rosenthal, from the readers of Grits for Breakfast:

“Several readers identified Rosenthal… as an] exceptional, fair, and qualified judge[].”

“One reader feared losing Judge Rosenthal or Judge Elrod as trial judges, and suggested Rosenthal deserved a 5th Circuit appointment and Elrod should fill her federal district court slot.”

“Lee Rosenthal is by far and away the most learned Judge I have ever practiced before. She seems to be fair, well-reasoned and straightforward.”

So given all this praise, why did we place Judge Rosenthal in the second tier of possible nominees — an “outside possibility” for the Fifth Circuit?
Well, to make a long story short, we hear that some conservatives are concerned about her “reliability” (i.e., her ideological consistency). And even though the new Senate will be controlled by the Democrats, the White House and the Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee do not feel compelled to put forward nominees whose conservatism is even slightly in question.
(At least not yet. It remains to be seen whether the scrappy Chuck Schumer, aided by Nan Aron and friends, will wear them down over time.)
What do you know about these potential 5th Circuit nominees? [Grits for Breakfast]
Earlier: More Fifth Circuit Scuttlebutt: R. Ted Cruz
Some Fifth Circuit Scuttlebutt

Back in this comment, Sean Fitzpatrick pointed out a fun fact:

One of those “not so sexy” district court nominations [to be submitted to the lame duck Congress] is of former U.S. Representative Jim Rogan (R-CA), who served as lead prosecutor in Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.

This escaped our notice, but not that of Al Kamen, of the Washington Post. From In the Loop (a Beltway must-read):

[O]ne of Bush’s nominees, a former House member from California and a “manager” in the effort to impeach and remove President Bill Clinton from office, could very well be confirmed to a federal judgeship, even under a Democratic Senate next year.

James Rogan, who lost his seat in 2000 because of voter unhappiness over his impeachment efforts, was later confirmed by the Senate to head the Patent and Trademark Office. He’s now a Los Angeles lawyer.

And, oddly enough, Rogan’s got support from an unusual group of Clinton backers, including a California judicial vetting committee with members picked by liberal Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

Kamen wonders: Will Senatrix Hillary Clinton (D-NY) vote for the man who tried to get her and her husband evicted from the White House? She’s known to bear grudges (and voted repeatedly against Michael Chertoff, when he was nominated for executive and judicial branch posts, because of his involvement in the Whitewater investigation).
But then again, check out this cheery photograph of the Clintons and the Rogans, from a White House Christmas party in 1999:
James Rogan Hillary Clinton Above the Law.jpg

Hillary’s bustline is somewhat drooping in the pic. But that’s not Rogan’s fault, is it?
On Deck Again: One of Democrats’ Favorite Clinton Foes [Washington Post]

This is a continuation of our prior post about the annual dinner of the Federalist Society. You can read the rest of it after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Belly of the Beast: An Evening With Scalito (Part 2)”

Arlen Specter 2 Senator Arlen Specter Above the Law.jpgLast week we briefly discussed the appearance at the Federalist Society convention of Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), outgoing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We also described our exchange with him during the question-and-answer session.
We now provide you with a somewhat more detailed account of Senator Specter’s remarks. We found them surprisingly funny; but don’t get your hopes THAT high (because some of them were of a “you had to be there” nature).
Our write-up of Senator Specter’s speech, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Belly of the Beast: Senator Arlen Specter”

Emily Pataki Emily Pataki Emily Pataki Above the Law Legal Blog.JPG* Emily Pataki, the attractive and accomplished daughter of New York governor George Pataki, failed the New York bar exam — and sent around an office-wide email about it. The story was broken by the mainstream media.
* We heard from some of Emily’s law school classmates about the incident. In a reader poll, you opined that emailing her White & Case colleagues was unwise.
* The Democratic takeover of the Senate could make things tough(er) for the White House’s judicial nominees.
* Despite the sea change in Washington, President Bush resubmitted six controversial judicial picks to the lame duck Senate. Getting all of them confirmed is probably impossible, but getting two of them through might happen.
* The White House has not yet submitted nominees for the two vacant Fifth Circuit seats. (Texas’s Solicitor General, conservative legal superstar R. Ted Cruz, is said to be uninterested.)
* Borat-related litigation shows no signs of abating.
* O.J. Simpson: He’s back — and he’s still looking for his wife’s killer. Except this time, he’s looking in the mirror.
* Some bad ideas from the past week: getting frisky on an airplane; setting your ex-girlfriend’s kittens on fire; having sex with a deer (even if it’s dead); eating at Burger King or Taco Bell; and getting married without a prenup (if you’re a filthy rich Hollywood celebrity).
* Over the past few days, we’ve been spending some quality time with the Federalist Society. More reports on the proceedings — including lavish photography — will appear in the coming week.

R Ted Cruz Above the Law.jpgIn our detailed review of possible nominees for the two open Fifth Circuit seats in Texas, we mentioned Texas’s Solicitor General, R. Ted Cruz, as a possible nominee.
After we dropped his name, a number of you wrote in to share your thoughts about him (as frequently happens after we mention someone in these pages). Here are some of your comments:

“Ted Cruz is brilliant — and he knows it. In this respect, he’s like his former boss, ex-Fourth Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig. And in both cases, the arrogance is actually warranted.”

“Ted Cruz is a smartest of all the people whose names you floated (probably even including Greg Coleman, but that’s a close call). Cruz is a former Luttig and Rehnquist clerk, and not surprisingly, he’s very well-connected politically. Prior to taking the Texas SG job, he served in the Bush Administration. If nominated, he could face some opposition. He’s very conservative — but when it counts, it’s mostly in a cute libertarian/old Federalist Society sort of way. And he’s very, very political — he may not be an easy sell in a 52-48 51-49 Senate itching to do some damage.”

“Before Ted Cruz was one of America’s top young conservative lawyers, he was a force to be reckoned with on the college parliamentary debate circuit. Debaters would pratically pee in their pants upon learning they’d be going up against him!”

In sum, Ted Cruz is a brilliant, conservative, high-powered Latino lawyer. So why did we call him only an outside possibility for the 5th Circuit?
Is it because he might engender Democratic opposition? Actually, no. Considering that President Bush just resubmitted four controversial circuit court nominees, it’s clear he’s still ready to rumble with the Dems. The White House would probably be fine with nominating Cruz if he wanted a Fifth Circuit seat.
And therein lies the rub. These days we’re hearing that Cruz actually does NOT want to get appointed to that court. At an earlier point in his legal career, a Fifth Circuit seat might have been his dream job (en route to a seat on the Supreme Court). But the latest rumor is that Ted Cruz has grown more interested in elective office lately.
So expect him to run for some prominent elected position in the not-too-distant future. Texas Attorney General? Governor of the Lone Star State? A position representing Texas in the U.S. House or Senate? The sky is the limit for someone as talented as Ted Cruz.
R. Ted Cruz bio [Trolp.org]
Ted Cruz [Wikipedia]
Earlier: Some Fifth Circuit Scuttlebutt

Arlen Specter Senator Arlen Specter Above the Law.jpgToday’s sessions at the Federalist Society annual conference kicked off with a speech by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), the current (but outgoing) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. His remarks, which focused on the judicial nominations process, were engaging and informative. The crowd enjoyed his dry wit.
We may have more to say about Senator Specter’s address later. For now, a quick account of our exchange with him during the question-and-answer session. When it was our turn to question Senator Specter, we asked:

Senator Specter, as the current chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, do you have any thoughts on specific individuals who might be suitable nominees to the Supreme Court? And on a related note, what do you think of Senator Chuck Schumer’s suggestion of you as a possible nominee?

The Senator took the second question first. His good-natured, joking response (paraphrased):

It’s the best idea he’s had in a decade. In fact, it’s the only good idea he’s had in a decade!

Senator Specter went on to note that, back in 1971, he was talked about as a possible Supreme Court nominee (according to the Nixon tapes). He quipped that 1971 “would have been a better time” than today.
Finally, with respect to opining on possible SCOTUS nominees, the senator demurred. He noted that while he certainly could offer some names, as part of the Senate’s “advise and consent” function, he would exercise his discretion not to speak on the subject. He said he expected President Bush to appreciate that decision.

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