Romania

Judge Paul Watford

Congratulations to the newest member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Honorable Paul J. Watford. On Monday, Watford, currently a 44-year-old partner at the super-elite Munger Tolles & Olson, was confirmed to the federal bench. The vote was 61-34, and it came after a bit of drama in the Senate.

It’s surprising that Watford’s nomination was so contentious, given that he has a number of backers from the right side of the aisle. As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, “[h]is supporters included conservative UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh, who has described Watford as brilliant and ideologically moderate, and attorney Jeremy Rosen, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the conservative Federalist Society” (and a noted appellate lawyer, who has appeared before in these pages).

That’s not all. Watford clerked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, one of a handful of prominent conservative or libertarian judges on the (generally liberal) Ninth Circuit. If you look at the ranks of former Kozinski clerks, you’ll see many members in good standing of the vast right-wing conspiracy (and some who are not, like Paul Watford — who went on to clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and was nominated to the Ninth Circuit by a Democratic president).

Now that the handsome Watford has joined his superhottie boss on the bench, we have a trivia question: Who is the circuit judge with the most former law clerks to join him on the Court of Appeals during his lifetime?

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Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (sans robe).

Immigration is a hot topic these days. It was the subject of a recent Supreme Court case, Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting (a rare loss for the Chamber, which fares well at SCOTUS). It’s getting implicated in the LGBT rights movement, as gay and lesbian binational couples fight deportations caused by the Defense of Marriage Act. And as Election 2012 gets underway, we’ll surely be hearing more about immigration in the weeks and months ahead.

As the immigration debate continues, let’s keep in mind the important contributions made to our nation by immigrants. For example, one of our most distinguished federal judges — Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — is an immigrant. He was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1950, and he immigrated to the United States with his family in 1962, at the age of 12.

Chief Judge Kozinski recently sent me a great story relating to his naturalization, which I will now share with you (with His Honor’s permission)….

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