Federal Judges

Give this man a federal judgeship.’ That sounded as if I were desperate, which I was . . . .

– Judge Leslie Southwick, in response to a Washington Post headline during his confirmation struggle.

In The Nominee: A Political and Spiritual Journey, Judge Leslie H. Southwick chronicles the long path to his current seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Southwick is a former Mississippi Court of Appeals judge, former deputy assistant attorney general in the first Bush Administration, and Iraq war veteran. He was recommended by Mississippi senators for a Fifth Circuit vacancy in 1991 and 2004, for a district judgeship in 2004 and 2006, before his final nomination in 2007. He initially appeared to be an uncontroversial nominee. However, a fierce partisan battle in the Senate threatened his eventual success. The Nominee follows Southwick’s tortuous path, relying on the judge’s day-by-day personal notes.

Southwick’s account is fascinating on its face. He drops names on every page, and it’s exciting to trace the earlier steps of those who would become legal luminaries in later years. For those only generally familiar with the way that federal judges get made — a process resembling in unsettling ways how sausage gets made, Southwick notes — the book provides an education in both the official and the unofficial processes. The book will certainly satisfy in excruciating detail the curiosity of anyone who wonders exactly how stubbornly political the judicial confirmation process has become.

Notably, the book shows just how long the process can be. Before he clears the Senate Judiciary Committee vote, before his nomination even reaches the Senate floor, Southwick writes that the day “was a double anniversary of my seeking a position on the Fifth Circuit. In my diary, I wrote, ‘Tuesday, 10 July. Sixteen years today since this started,’ meaning that I learned on July 10, 1991, that Judge Charles Clark was retiring. In addition, the 1991 date was exactly sixteen years after I wrote my July 10, 1975, letter applying to clerk for Judge Clark.” Judges, whether made the right way or not, are not made overnight.

None of this is what makes the book most worth reading, though — and it certainly is worth reading . . . .

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We recently asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo of a legally themed bookshelf:

Based on the reader voting, which caption won the contest? Sadly, it wasn’t my favorite….

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Judge Richard Posner

From the Above the Law mailbag: “Is ATL ever going to call out Judge Posner for being so needlessly nasty to litigants?”

Ummm, no. I’m a big fan of Judge Richard Posner, who is brilliant and hilarious. (Yes, hilarious — if you doubt that, check out the awesome podcast that he and I did together, which you can download and listen to during your commute or at the gym.)

But in the interest of fairness, I will make this reader’s case. This correspondent cited the recent oral argument in Notre Dame v. Sebelius, which we alluded to yesterday, in which Judge Posner dispensed some benchslaps to Matthew Kairis, head of litigation in the Columbus office of Jones Day. The reader also mentioned the argument on remand in the Conrad Black case, alleging that Posner “was particularly nasty to Miguel Estrada, seemingly piqued that Estrada got him reversed by SCOTUS.”

Let’s focus on the Notre Dame v. Sebelius argument, since it just happened. How bad was it?

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Bradley Cooper: a very handsome man, but sadly not a lawyer.

Seemingly random small-firm lawyers from Alabama weren’t the only legal types in attendance at the White House State Dinner on Tuesday evening. Indeed, as we’ve previously noted, numerous legal celebrities attended the festivities as well.

Sure, there were some “celebrity celebrities” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that night. The guest list included such boldface names as J.J. Abrams, Stephen Colbert, Bradley Cooper, Mindy Kaling, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

But who cares about Hollywood? Above the Law readers are more interested in the government lawyers, federal judges, Biglaw partners and law professors who attended this major social event….

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Too soon, too soon, too soon.

– Justice Elena Kagan, declaring in a recent public appearance that she’s not ready to be the subject of a bobblehead doll.

(Additional highlights from Lady Kaga’s comments, after the jump.)

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Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain (my former boss)

* Virginia is for lovers — gay and straight alike. Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen (E.D. Va.) just struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage (but stayed her ruling pending appeal). Happy Valentine’s Day! [Washington Post]

* The Ninth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, issued a major Second Amendment ruling. Is it correct, and what will happen next? Professor Eugene Volokh shares his thoughts. [Volokh Conspiracy; Volokh Conspiracy]

* Which leading law firms are trying to make the Comcast/Time Warner Cable monstrosity into reality? [American Lawyer]

* Did a Biglaw firm make a big-time mistake by blowing a deadline to appeal a $40 million verdict? [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Speaking of screw-ups, making them in the e-discovery realm can be costly — a lesson that California is learning the hard way, to the tune of $32 million. [ACEDS]

* Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin thought he’d be acquitted; he thought wrong. [ABA Journal]

* George Washington wasn’t a member of the one of the 8 magic groups — but his story still illustrates the truth of The Triple Package (affiliate link), according to Washington biographer Logan Beirne. [Fox News]

* Authorities have made an arrest for the package bombing that killed a retired Tennessee lawyer and his wife. [CNN]

Judge Frank Easterbrook

Let’s play a game of circuit-court word association.

D.C. Circuit? Prestigious.

Ninth Circuit? Wacky.

Sixth Circuit? Vicious.

Seventh Circuit? Benchslappy.

If you question this assessment, please consider the latest benchslaps emanating from 219 South Dearborn Street….

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On Monday, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this picture of a legally themed bookshelf:

I observed that while this photo wasn’t as funny as the one from our last caption contest, sometimes subtler photos inspire better captions. Check out the finalists for this caption contest and see if you agree….

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David Boies: just one great lawyer among many at Boies Schiller.

What comes to mind at the mention of Boies, Schiller & Flexner? Perhaps the legendary named partners — David Boies, Jonathan Schiller, and Donald Flexner — or perhaps the legendary bonuses, which last year went as high as $300,000.

But there’s much more to the firm than that. Even though BSF is most famous for its litigation work, it has a sizable and well-regarded corporate practice, for example. And even though its biggest presence is in the state of New York, with offices in Albany, Armonk, and New York City, the firm has several other outposts — including a growing and high-powered presence in Washington, D.C.

Boies Schiller has been adding some impressive new talent to its D.C. outpost. Last week, the firm welcomed a leading litigatrix. Let’s learn more about her, shall we?

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O Canada!

* Secrets secrets are no fun, secrets secrets hurt someone: Chief Justice Roberts named two judges to two secret courts. Congrats to Judges Boasberg and Tallman. [Legal Times]

* Bankruptcy just got a lot more fabulous. AG Eric Holder announced that the government would extend recognition of same-sex couples in federal legal matters. [New York Times]

* With reports of firms’ financials beginning to trickle out, partners are getting anxious. No one wants to be the next Dewey — or the next Gregory Owens. [Am Law Daily]

* This is the second year in a row that Greenberg Traurig has posted financial declines. Perhaps the firm started its lower pay, non-partner track residency program for a reason. Something to think about. [Daily Business Review]

* “It’s our duty as partners to help.” Law students articling at the recently dissolved Heenan Blaikie are learning a lesson in Canadian collegiality. The firm is trying to help them get new jobs. [Montreal Gazette]

* Speaking of Heenan Blaikie, we’re hearing chatter that the firm’s talks with DLA Piper may be in trouble. HB says the talks they’re off, but DLA says they’re ongoing. Hmm, that sounds dramatic. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “It’s a very L.A. thing. We’ll see how long it lasts.” If you had to choose, you’d probably go to Dumb Starbucks over Starbucks. Order a Dumb Frappuccino before they get a C&D letter. [Los Angeles Times]

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