Kim McLane Wardlaw

An en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit dropped one-liners, harsh mockery, and severe realkeeping for a little over an hour, and it’s entirely watchable because it’s so damn funny.

A federal prosecutor in California inserted a “fact” into his rebuttal that wasn’t in the record.

Overzealous prosecutor lies to get a conviction? To channel Ralph Wiggum, “that’s unpossible.” Now I can take off my old defense lawyer hat.

After the trial judge responded to these charges by shrugging his shoulders, the case wound its way to an en banc hearing of the Ninth Circuit, where a bevy of judges (including Chief Judge Alex Kozinski) rips into the government for sandbagging the defense out of a fair trial.

And it’s all on video….

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Judge Reinhardt and me, perfect together.

Such arrogance and assumption of power by one individual is not acceptable in our judicial system.

– Judge Stephen Reinhardt, concurring, in Townley v. Miller. A Ninth Circuit panel stayed a district court’s preliminary injunction order in a case involving Nevada’s “none of these candidates” ballot option.

(More about this interesting and politically charged case, after the jump.)

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Last week, I wrote (with great pleasure) about whether women lawyers should wear peep-toe shoes to court. In my informal poll of seven federal judges, the vote broke down roughly as follows: four in favor, two opposed, and one in the middle. (See the update — Judge Susan Graber seemed agnostic on peep-toes, but advised lawyers, male and female alike, “to consider comfort and color” in footwear choices.)

One of the judges who dissented, lodging her opposition to a litigatrix sporting peep-toe shoes in court, was Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (9th Cir.):

My view is that if you have a question about the appropriateness of your attire, don’t risk it. Women appearing in court should never wear anything that draws attention to their anatomy over the merits of their case. You just never know how your audience — judges, jurors, clients or senior partners — will react. It’s better to play it safe in formal settings and save the peep-toes for after hours.

But don’t get the wrong impression about Judge Wardlaw, who is fierce and fabulous (see my earlier interview of her). She is not some fashion fuddy-duddy. Although she recommends against lawyers wearing peep-toes to court, she owns many pairs of herself, which she happily wears in chambers.

Check out these photos of Judge Wardlaw modeling peep-toe shoes, sent to Above the Law by her colleague on the Ninth Circuit, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski….

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Earlier today, on the Senate floor, debate took place on whether to confirm Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the nation’s 112th Supreme Court justice. The Kagan nomination is not very controversial, due to the nominee’s impeccable credentials and the Democrats’ 59 votes in the Senate.

In the legal blogosphere, a far more divisive debate is raging, over a subject just as important as confirming the fourth woman ever to the Supreme Court: Are peep-toe shoes appropriate professional footwear? Can female attorneys wear them to the office? What about to court?

The debate was ignited over at The Careerist, by Vivia Chen (no style slouch herself — not many legal journalists own floor-length mink coats). Chen recounted this anecdote:

Waiting in line in the ladies room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel recently, I heard this discussion: “In my day, I always wore pumps to court,” said in a woman in her fifties. “Can you believe this associate went to court with open-toe shoes?” Her companion shook her head, then asked: “How did she do?” The first woman replied, “Her work was good, but her shoes weren’t right.”

Chen then surveyed a number of lawyers, from around the country, and they could not reach a consensus on the appropriateness of peep-toe shoes. The debate continued over at the ABA Journal, where a post by Debra Cassens Weiss generated a flurry of comments.

Given that so many law firms are business casual nowadays, it is probably safe to wear peep-toe shoes to the office. The fashion guidelines issued by the New York office of Weil Gotshal, for example, officially bless “open toe or open heel shoes.” (Still unacceptable: “Athletic shoes, clogs, beach shoes, flip flops, beach shoes.”)

But what about wearing peep-toe shoes to court? On this subject, we decided to turn to the experts: namely, a panel of fabulous female federal judges….

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Kimba Wood Judge Kimba M Wood Frank Richardson Above the Law blog.jpgAs we previously mentioned, and as Lawrence Hurley of the Daily Journal reports here, Congress is considering a proposal that would raise federal judges’ salaries by a significant margin. Here’s what the new scale would look like (with current salaries indicated parenthetically):

District Court Judges: $247,800 (up from $165,200)
Court of Appeals Judges: $262,700 ($175,100)
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court: $304,500 ($203,000)
Chief Justice of the United States: $318,200 ($212,100)

This proposal would cost millions in taxpayer dollars. So we have a better solution to the problem of federal judicial pay, which Chief Justice John Roberts has dubbed a “constitutional crisis.”

Here’s our brilliant idea: Require all federal judges to marry rich!

Don’t you just love couples in which one spouse is a judge, with all the power and prestige of judicial office, and the other spouse is rolling in dough? Off the top of our head, we can name a number of federal judges who have married well — or at least wealthy. (Like Judge Kimba Wood, above right, with her well-heeled hubby, Frank Richardson.)

We list some judges who have married into money, and we invite additional examples from you, after the jump.

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paris hilton.jpgToday is the first day for judicial clerkship interviews under the official Law Clerk Hiring Plan (which some judges follow, and some judges don’t). We’re going to celebrate the occasion with a judge-related poll.
Here at Above the Law, we love ourselves some Paris Hilton. She’s beautiful, blonde, and rich. She’s fabulous and glamorous. She’s a gifted model, actress, singer, dancer, and businesswoman. (And yes, she’s good at that, too.)
Here are some quotes from a recent New York Sun article about Paris that capture some of our feelings about her:

Says Camille Paglia: “She feels the Zeitgeist. She has that dancer’s feel for the camera, for the observing eye, and she produces fantastic still pictures.” Ashley Barrett, global PR director for Coty Prestige, has added, “She is very clever about giving the press what they want — provocative fashion, an ever-increasing list of projects, scandal. She gives great paparazzi.”

Some people deride Paris Hilton as being “famous for nothing” or “famous for being famous.” We disagree; but if this were true, it would only make Paris more fantastic. It would make the purest incarnation of fame possible: fame undiluted by the distracting presence of accomplishment.
And, as everyone knows, we also love ourselves some federal judges. So here’s today’s poll:

Who is the Paris Hilton of the federal judiciary?

Here are the contenders and what they share in common with Paris:

Judge Maryanne Trump Barry (Third Circuit): ’cause she’s a filthy rich heiress (daughter of the late real estate magnate Fred Trump, and big sister of The Donald).

Judge Alex Kozinski (Ninth Circuit): ’cause he’s a genius at self-promotion.

Judge Richard Posner (Seventh Circuit): ’cause he’s a multitalented public intellectual.

Judge Shira Scheindlin (Southern District of new York): ’cause she’s a Gotham-based biatch difficult woman.

Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (Ninth Circuit): ’cause she’s a blonde diva — and HOTT!!!

Who is the Paris Hilton of the federal judiciary?
Judge Maryanne Trump Barry (3d Cir.)
Judge Alex Kozinski (9th Cir.)
Judge Richard Posner (7th Cir.)
Judge Shira Scheindlin (S.D.N.Y.)
Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (9th Cir.)
Free polls from

Update: Paris Hilton: When the Polls Will Close
Paris Hilton: She’s With the Brand [New York Sun]

liza minelli.jpgWe’ve always had a great deal of affection for boozy chanteuse Liza Minnelli. Why? Check out this surprisingly eloquent squib from her Wikipedia bio:

Minnelli’s work in Cabaret molded her popular image, from the black helmet of hair and extravagant eyelashes that have remained her visual trademark to the perception among many that she shares Sally Bowles’s combination of fragility and toughness, her hunger for affection, and her heedless detachment from the ordinary.

This explains why Minnelli has such a large following among “friends of Judge Wardlaw.”
Indeed, some people suspect that Liza’s latest hubby, David Gest, might be among their number. And based on how ugly their divorce has gotten — MEOW!!! — it’s not an unreasonable theory.

David Gest, the estranged husband of Liza Minnelli, asked a judge to set aside his prenuptial agreement with the star, the latest development in their lengthy divorce battle.

Gest’s lawyers told State Supreme Court Judge Harold B. Beeler on Friday that Minnelli hid the fact that she was infected with herpes, was an alcoholic and prone to violence. Had Gest known, the lawyers argued, he never would have entered into the prenuptial agreement.

Minnelli’s lawyer, Israel Rubin, refused to comment on specific allegations. “This whole thing is ridiculous,” he said.

Minnelli claims that Gest is trying to “attack and embarrass her publicly” with these allegations. If so, it’s not working. With each new revelation, the diva only grows in our esteem.
Gest Wants Minnelli Prenup Dismissed [Associated Press]