Federal Judges

I remember riding home one evening with Justice Lewis Powell, whom I was serving as a law clerk. I was pumped over a vote he had cast that day, and I expected him to share my excitement. He responded that he considered himself fortunate if only 48 percent of the legitimate points to be made were on the other side.

– Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, writing in a Washington Post op-ed piece about the virtues required of judges — and how the elimination of the filibuster on many presidential nominees could lead to a less balanced judiciary.

Judge Richard KopfDid the agents who were conducting my interview already know all about my daughter, the surveillance and the warning? While I suspect they did, to this day, I am not certain. Was I really obligated to “rat her out” to prove my bona fides? I have no idea, but I sure felt sh**ty for having done so.

– Judge Richard G. Kopf, writing on his delightful blog about the deeply intrusive process for vetting federal judicial nominees — which required him to reveal to the FBI his daughter’s brush with allegedly unsavory characters.

(See also Richard Posner — citing Above the Law and Elie Mystal, by the way — after the jump.)

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The other shoe has dropped: Senator Harry Reid went forward with the long-awaited “nuclear option” to end the Republican filibuster of Obama nominees, most notably the nominations of Judge Robert Wilkins, Georgetown Law Professor Nina Pillard, and Akin Gump partner Patricia Millett to three vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit.

By a 52-48 vote, Democrats killed off the filibuster for most of the president’s upcoming nominations, though kindly preserved the minority’s right to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. So they didn’t take away all of our fun.

But you probably already know that. You probably already have a militant opinion about it if social media is to be believed. But as we prepare to welcome three new judges to the D.C. Circuit, our friends, family, politicians, and media people are going to toss around some really hollow sound bytes both for and against this move. Let’s just get some of them out of the way now, so you don’t have to act surprised when you watch Meet the Press on Sunday.

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This week, the Senate blocked the nomination of Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. President Obama nominated Wilkins to fill Judge David Sentelle’s seat. Failing to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, Wilkins won’t move forward to an up-or-down, simple-majority vote by the Senate.

Senate Republicans insist that the D.C. Circuit does not need any more judges in order to properly carry its current caseload. While Wilkins might be well-qualified to be a circuit judge, the Senate just isn’t hiring. President Obama said in a written statement, “When it comes to judicial nominations, I am fulfilling my constitutional responsibility, but Congress is not. Instead, Senate Republicans are standing in the way of a fully-functioning judiciary that serves the American people.” Democrats in the Senate, led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), threaten to alter the rules governing judicial nominations to prevent filibustering.

Democrats’ and Republicans’ reasons for fixating on the D.C. vacancies are political and obvious. It’s an unusually influential court, issuing rulings on administrative and regulatory matters with nationwide implications. What about the rest of the country, though? While politicians in Washington fuss over the D.C. Circuit, what is being neglected elsewhere?

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* The rocky relationship between McKenna Long & Aldridge and Dentons is being doubted by everyone, and it looks like Dentons may be on the verge of receiving the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech. [Daily Report]

* Stephen DiCarmine, Dewey & LeBoeuf’s former executive director and resident fashionista, just hired a criminal defense attorney. We trust this man — jailhouse stripes must be so hot right now! [Am Law Daily]

* Skadden cares about its people. The firm is trying to prevent a man who killed one of its legal secretaries, got high, and then ate six waffles from collecting any of the funds from her 401(k). [New York Daily News]

* Just imagine if this great profile were written in true BuzzFeed listicle style. It’d probably be called something like “3,742 Words on Why Mary Bonauto Is the Most Awesome Marriage Equality Lawyer Ever.” [BuzzFeed]

* “I think it’s fair to say the hiring plan is kaput.” As we previously reported, the Law Clerk Hiring Plan is dead, and the heat is on to figure out a way to lure federal judges back to OSCAR. [National Law Journal]

Justice Clarence Thomas in conversation with Judge Diane Sykes.

Over the past few years, some amazing speakers have appeared at the Thursday evening dinner of the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention. Last year, Justice Samuel A. Alito offered a very funny look back at his time at Yale Law School. In 2010, Justice Antonin Scalia engaged in a spirited and wide-ranging conversation with legal journalist Jan Crawford.

Last night’s event will be tough to top. Justice Clarence Thomas, speaking with Judge Diane Sykes of the Seventh Circuit, delivered remarks that were “equal parts hysterical, poignant and inspiring,” as Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett noted on Twitter.

I was lucky enough to attend, seated just one table away from the stage. Here’s my account of the evening (plus a few photos)….

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Alex Rich has a whole “worst job” thing going for contract attorney gigs. So far, that little contest has turned up lawyers getting paid minimum wage. That is pretty dismal.

But what about getting paid zero?

While some federal judges are making tentative steps toward ending the exploitation of regular folks at the hands of unpaid internships, others feel you shouldn’t have to pay for a cow when you can get milk from desperate cows hoping that giving away their labor might increase the dim likelihood of securing a decent wage somewhere else in the long-term for free.

If you’re looking to work for free, maybe this job listing is for you. If you just want to hate on a federal judge for taking advantage of lawyer misery for personal gain, you may want to read on as well…

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Chief Judge Alex Kozinski

Conservative and libertarian judges on the Ninth Circuit — yes, they exist — have been showing the East Coast a lot of love lately. Last month, my former boss, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, delivered the Joseph Story Distinguished Lecture at the Heritage Foundation (an excellent speech that you can watch here). Later this week, Judge O’Scannlain and one of his colleagues, Judge Carlos Bea, will make appearances at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention.

And yesterday, the ringmaster of the Ninth Circuit himself, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, delivered a talk at Yale Law School entitled “The Immigrant Experience and Judging.” He spoke to a packed house in YLS’s largest classroom.

Here are some highlights from his remarks….

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Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Debra M. Strauss, Associate Professor of Business Law at Fairfield University, offers helpful tips for landing a judicial clerkship.

You may be panicking now that that the Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan appears to be in its state of demise. But this is not the first effort or the last to put some control on the timing of judicial clerkship applications! That’s why I gave the entire historical context in my book — Behind the Bench: The Guide to Judicial Clerkships — knowing that the “new” timing guidelines might not endure but would be likely to suffer the same fate as previous initiatives. To help you understand where we are now, it is important to know a bit of the background that preceded the latest Federal Law Clerk Hiring Plan. In addition, here’s some valuable advice I gave students the last time there were no timing guidelines to make the best of the situation.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Is it acceptable to say a friendly hello to a Supreme Court justice if you see one of the nine out in public? That’s the question posed in a recent Dear Prudence column. As a federal judicial stalker an Article III groupie myself, I say yes. Because who knows? The justice might give you an autograph (and some free wine).

But some people don’t need to chase after Supreme Court justices. Some people will get to work closely with the members of the high court as law clerks, crafting the opinions that will rule us all.

Thanks to everyone who responded to our recent request for SCOTUS clerk hiring news for October Term 2014. Let’s look at the updated list of clerks hired so far….

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