State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

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tomwatts
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby tomwatts » Thu Jul 18, 2013 11:53 pm

Thanks for reading!

I should add, now that I look back at that post and realize how negative it sounded, that I really like law school. This is not some disgruntled, angry law student. I think that law school has been really fun and educational. I also think that it could be a lot better, though. I tend just to shrug when something is unrelentingly awful. I get most worked up when something has a lot of unfulfilled promise, and I think law school does.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby anozira » Fri Jul 19, 2013 1:28 am

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Fri Jul 19, 2013 8:47 am

anozira wrote:Thanks for answering questions, Judge.



My pleasure. I know that I certainly wouldn't be where I am today if some senior lawyers and judges had not given me some good advice and an occasional kick in the pants along the way. I believe in paying that forward.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby jrsbaseball5 » Fri Jul 19, 2013 1:46 pm

Judge, thank you again for taking questions.

1) You may have mentioned this already, but with the many applications that you receive yearly what helps a candidate stand out to you enough to get an interview?
2) What is the number one (or perhaps most common) mistake that you see young lawyers or clerks make?
3) Just for fun, how long does a typical opinion take for you to write and how many drafts do you and your clerks go through?

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby ggocat » Fri Jul 19, 2013 3:24 pm

Thanks for taking questions.

(1) After you left private practice, did you ever consider going back? What made you stay at the DA's office?
I'm about 3 years into my career as a staff attorney at a state court of appeals--a permanent law clerk. Many of my colleagues have left for private practice and don't speak fondly of it, or they try to put the best spin on it (e.g., "I'm getting some great experience working 12-hour days."). But many of the judges seem to speak of private practice fondly. Perhaps it gets better with time, or has private practice changed in the last 20 years?

(2) Do you find that your court has a good mix of judges with both civil and criminal backgrounds? Do "the powers that be" selecting judges in your state take the mix/balance of the court into consideration?
Our judges are mostly elected, and they usually come from civil backgrounds despite the court (like yours) having mostly criminal cases. I'm wondering if this is a byproduct of the electoral system because it is easier to raise funds in civil circles?

(3) Are you required to have term law clerks rather than permanent staff, and what do you think of a system that has mostly permanent staff?
About 25% of the judges on my court now have term clerks. In the distant past, it used to be 100%. A few years ago, it was 50%. I'm wondering if there is a trend to having more permanent staff positions, or if it's perhaps just a sign of the weakened economy with people like me riding out the storm in an awesome gig.
Also, I understand that the bar has given some judges flak for not maintaining the term law clerk positions because of the lack of mentoring of new attorneys. That seems like a valid criticism.

(4) What's your philosophy on oral argument: do you find it useful; do you vote for it whenever requested or rarely; do you feel the lawyers/parties should be entitled to it as a matter of right?
Also, how is the decision to grant oral argument made at your court? Up to the authoring judge, or a vote of the panel?
About what percentage of the non-per-curiam-type cases (table cases, or whatever you call them) have oral argument at your court?

(5) You described your work with argued cases, I think, with clerks doing bench memos, but do your clerks also do first draft opinions?

(6) About how many opinions do you author each year; about how many additional opinions do you review/vote on (i.e., your colleagues' opinions), not counting special filings / motions / etc.?

(7) What did you look for when you hired ADAs? (For an applicant who hadn't interned already in your office)? To your knowledge, how did your approach compare to the other DAs (former/future/other counties)?

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Fri Jul 19, 2013 7:35 pm

ggocat wrote:Thanks for taking questions.

(1) After you left private practice, did you ever consider going back? What made you stay at the DA's office?
I'm about 3 years into my career as a staff attorney at a state court of appeals--a permanent law clerk. Many of my colleagues have left for private practice and don't speak fondly of it, or they try to put the best spin on it (e.g., "I'm getting some great experience working 12-hour days."). But many of the judges seem to speak of private practice fondly. Perhaps it gets better with time, or has private practice changed in the last 20 years?

(2) Do you find that your court has a good mix of judges with both civil and criminal backgrounds? Do "the powers that be" selecting judges in your state take the mix/balance of the court into consideration?
Our judges are mostly elected, and they usually come from civil backgrounds despite the court (like yours) having mostly criminal cases. I'm wondering if this is a byproduct of the electoral system because it is easier to raise funds in civil circles?

(3) Are you required to have term law clerks rather than permanent staff, and what do you think of a system that has mostly permanent staff?
About 25% of the judges on my court now have term clerks. In the distant past, it used to be 100%. A few years ago, it was 50%. I'm wondering if there is a trend to having more permanent staff positions, or if it's perhaps just a sign of the weakened economy with people like me riding out the storm in an awesome gig.
Also, I understand that the bar has given some judges flak for not maintaining the term law clerk positions because of the lack of mentoring of new attorneys. That seems like a valid criticism.

(4) What's your philosophy on oral argument: do you find it useful; do you vote for it whenever requested or rarely; do you feel the lawyers/parties should be entitled to it as a matter of right?
Also, how is the decision to grant oral argument made at your court? Up to the authoring judge, or a vote of the panel?
About what percentage of the non-per-curiam-type cases (table cases, or whatever you call them) have oral argument at your court?

(5) You described your work with argued cases, I think, with clerks doing bench memos, but do your clerks also do first draft opinions?

(6) About how many opinions do you author each year; about how many additional opinions do you review/vote on (i.e., your colleagues' opinions), not counting special filings / motions / etc.?

(7) What did you look for when you hired ADAs? (For an applicant who hadn't interned already in your office)? To your knowledge, how did your approach compare to the other DAs (former/future/other counties)?


I'm going to have to crack my knuckles and do a few warm up typing exercises to take all these on but here goes:

1) My career had no particular plan to it. I started out as an Assistant Attorney General doing criminal work and after a few years of that, I switched to a local DA's office where I gradually worked my way up the chain of command to the #2 position. After my boss lost his re-election bid, I found myself without a job and was approached by a couple of firms about joining them. I joined a small 11 lawyer firm as a partner and handled most of the litigation for the firm for the next four years when I decided to run for DA and got elected and then reelected two more times and I went on the bench when my third term as DA was almost over. Although I enjoyed prosecution, especially my time as DA the most, I must admit that I also enjoyed private practice including criminal defense and civil litigation quite a bit. I think the reason young lawyers don't like private practice is they are working long hours doing mostly drudge work (document review) while the more senior associates and partners deal with the clients and go to court. I liked the flexibility and camaraderie of a small firm. Also, I think the practice of law has changed a lot since I was your age (and not necessarily for the better). Law has become more of a business than a profession. Despite more lawyers practicing now, they are less prepared (and tell me that you can't make any money if you spend a lot of time preparing) than they used to be. Also, lawyers are less courteous and professional with each other and the courts than they used to be (I blame TV shows for a lot of that.)

2) Yes, we have a good mix of backgrounds on my court. In addition to a couple of former DAs (including me), we have a couple of former BigLaw partners, a former law professor and a some former trial court judges with mostly civil practice backgrounds in smaller firms. The "powers that be" don't have any apparent criteria other than the political considerations of the moment. Despite the politics, we get highly qualified and competent people on my Court and the Supreme Court (I'm the exception that proves the rule) because by the time you become a finalist for a vacancy, a whole lot of bar associations and screening committees have vetted your background and qualifications. Judges in states where judges are popularly elected tend mostly to have criminal backgrounds because that is about the only kind of lawyering most voters can relate to.

3) No, we are not required to have term law clerks. A couple of my colleagues have permanent law clerks because they hate the hassle of hiring them. I personally don't like that system because their clerks start thinking of themselves as a sort of deputy judge. There is a trend away from one-year clerks and toward two-year clerkships. I was the first in my state to do that when I first went on the bench and I did so because the person I replaced complained that his clerks spent six months learning the job and the next six months looking for a new one. It has caught on in my state and only a one appellate judge and justice still do one year clerks. Several of our local federal district judges are now doing the same thing and like it better. A lot of my clerks, particularly women with young children, would like a long-term clerkship but I tell them no and it's for their own good. After more than about two or three years, I think it becomes much more difficult for a clerk to find a job because most firms view a clerkship as a training vehicle for young lawyers and if someone stays too long, I think firms figure they must not be cut out for private practice.

4) I like oral argument and find it very helpful. We grant it liberally if requested and it gives me an opportunity to get answers to questions that arise from the briefs (and if the brief was badly written as it often is, I have a lot of questions). Oral argument is a matter of right in criminal cases and we grant it routinely if requested in other cases. Majority vote of the panel controls but, as I said in another post, we don't get out much and so look forward to oral argument.

5) My clerks do grant and denial orders and I do let them do first a first draft of opinions occasionally. Most of my colleagues have their clerks do the first draft of all their opinions but I like to write and so even when one of my clerks does a first draft, I find myself pretty heavily re-writing it.

6) We currently average slightly under 40 written opinions per judge each year that have precedential value. We also author a lot of orders, summary affirmances and per curiam opinions without precedential value in addition to those.

7) With any employee I looked for the best person available at the time for the position. In the case of ADAs, I knew we were going to have to teach them how to try a case since law schools really don't so I was looking for men and women with a good work ethic who were willing to learn and knew that just because they had a J.D, that didn't mean that they knew what they were doing. Also, although they were few and far between, I looked for those I thought might actually make a career of prosecution so I could recover some of the taxpayers' cost to train them. There were some ADAs I had to fire on occasion mostly because they were lazy and didn't prepare, were afraid to go to trial or had ethical issues such as withholding exculpatory evidence or getting romantically involved with a witness. I'm not sure how I compared to other DA's offices in terms of hiring but I know that my turnover rate was among the lowest in the state so I guess most of my assistants thought it was a good place to work.

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Postby Another » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:11 pm

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:29 pm

hopkins23 wrote:More people should really take advantage of this. I think the thread might get more play if it's in the Judicial Clerkships forum, mods.

Anyway, thought of some other questions.

1. How often do your clerks or other state clerks you know of get federal clerkships later on?
2. Do you have any fed clerks who became state clerks? Or know of any?
3. Do you state judges really view fed clerkships as more "prestigious" than a state one?
4. How often and in what way do you go to bat for your former clerks if they're applying for jobs? Do you have any strict policies? For example, you say that you'll talk with any employer that calls you to ask about the clerk, but you won't initiate the conversation and call an employer because that could be seen as unethically using your judicial position.


I didn't start this thread in the Judicial Clerkship forum because I was willing to answer questions on any legal profession or law school related subject. Besides, the folks on that forum are pretty much consumed with the federal hiring dance.

To answer your questions:

1) Not often. I have had one clerk move on to another judge (a federal COA judge who used to be on my court and is a close friend of mine).

2) No and no. While some clerks move on to other judges on the same or higher courts, they are the exception and generally do so because their long term goal is legal academia, not actually practicing law. Many seeking clerkships and members of the legal academy, who mostly clerked for federal judges would agree with Above the Law's David Lat who used to refer to us in his prior blog as "icky state judges" (we mostly do bathe regularly). Moving from a federal to a state clerkship would certainly be regarded as a demotion by those folks. Historically, clerkships have always been regarded by employers simply as prestigious training/mentorship opportunities and not as a career unto itself. Everything about a judicial clerkship is geared toward short-term service, e.g. the salary scale generally has no room for upward movement. The legal academy treasures prestigious clerkships even more than BigLaw because the higher the court you clerked on, the better your resume looks on the faculty page of a law school website.

3) I don't think judges are nearly as "class conscious" as lawyers and law students are. The judges on my Court, my state's supreme court and all of the federal district and federal COA judges from my state all know each other very well, we see each other and talk often and compare notes on all kinds of things. We lead an insular existence and the main people we have to talk too are each other. That said, I think the distinction that most judges draw is not federal courts vs. state courts but rather appellate courts vs. trial courts. Appellate courts at both levels work the same way and have a lot in common. The same with the trial courts. So I guess the answer might be that most judicial insiders would regard a lawyer who clerked for a state COA or SC to be closer in terms of the experience gained to one who clerked for a federal COA over one who clerked for a federal district judge or magistrate judge.

4) Assuming I was satisfied with their performance, I "go to bat for my clerks" as much as I am able within the ethical constraints of my state. My clerks obviously list me as a reference when they apply for a job and then it depends on what the prospective employer does. A number of my clerks have gotten the jobs they have without the employer ever calling me to ask about them. If an employer does call, then I will answer any questions they have as honestly as I can. Since all of my clerks so far have ranged from very good to superstar, being honest has not hurt anyone but I won't deliberately pass off a problem employee to someone else. I know the people doing the hiring in a lot of cases and those who know me also know that I will be straight with them if they call. I did recently receive a nice compliment from the managing partner at one 45 lawyer firm. They hired a former ADA of mine some years ago who is now one of their top grossing partners and three years ago hired a former law clerk who just recently made partner in record time and the MP told me from now on when they had an opening, they would hire anybody I recommended. I also received a call from the hiring partner at the local office of a Vault 50 law firm a few months ago concerning one of my current clerks whose term was ending and who had applied to them. I told them that they would be crazy to let him get away. He starts there next month. Bottom line - if a prospective employer calls, I'll do what I can but "with great power comes great responsibility."
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:54 am

jrsbaseball5 wrote:Judge, thank you again for taking questions.

1) You may have mentioned this already, but with the many applications that you receive yearly what helps a candidate stand out to you enough to get an interview?
2) What is the number one (or perhaps most common) mistake that you see young lawyers or clerks make?
3) Just for fun, how long does a typical opinion take for you to write and how many drafts do you and your clerks go through?



1) First of all, I don't look at anything that comes in unless and until I have officially begun the hiring process which, for me, starts sometime in October because I usually take time off in August and September is a crunch month on my Court. I begin the process by posting an ad on my Court's website and by letting the career services folks at the law schools in my state know that I have begun the process of looking. I typically advertise that I am accepting applications for about 30 days or so and that I require a cover letter, resume, writing sample, state job application, LS transcript and optional recommendations. When the deadline for applications has passed, my clerks and I wade through them and set aside those that may be worth an interview based on what was submitted. We try to whittle them down to about 20 or so to interview. In making that determination, there is no particular formula but we look at the courses taken and the grades received - especially for the "skills" courses such as legal writing, appellate advocacy or trial advocacy and any clinics or internships/externships or extracurricular activities that involve these skills. Unlike some of my colleagues, I am not impressed with being on law review. I can tell who the really smart applicants are by looking at their transcript. I also put a lot of weight on recommendations from law professors, lawyers and judges who I know and respect if they have worked with the applicant.

2) The most common mistake I see young lawyers make is not asking enough questions. As I have said, law school does not prepare you for the practice of law but I think newly minted lawyers are often afraid to show their ignorance and don't ask enough questions to understand what they need to do and how to do it to get the best result for the client. I tell all my new clerks that "the only dumb question is the one that you are too dumb to ask."

3) There really is no "typical" opinion. Also we need to define our terms here. I (and most appellate judges) measure the time to write an opinion as including the time to read the briefs and become familiar with the record all the way through oral argument, if granted, through the collaborative peer review process with the other judges on the panel, to when the opinion is finally released to the parties and public. The pre-argument part consumes the most time. With that definition in mind, there is a lot of stuff that comes in that can be resolved quickly with a mostly boilerplate order and per curiam opinions and summary affirmances can be knocked out in a couple of days. Cases that will result in a published opinion with precedential value take the longest but there is no "typical" amount of time. The controlling factors are the number of issues to be analyzed and their complexity. I probably average about three drafts on most of my written opinions but some of the thornier ones have required as many as nine drafts. Our cases are randomly assigned to each judge on a given panel to write the opinion and that is subject to change if the assigned judge winds up in the dissent - we just swap off the case among ourselves. We have a decision conference immediately after oral argument and discuss the case among ourselves with the judge assigned to the case taking the lead in the discussion. A typical discussion on a given case is measured in minutes because we all usually agree pretty quickly on how the case needs to be decided. Sometimes the discussion can last as much as 30 minutes or so but that is rare and usually means that we are just not going to come together on a unanimous analysis so at some point we just agree to disagree and somebody writes separately. From that point it is just a matter of doing a draft opinion and circulating it to the other judges on the panel for suggestions or comments and to see if they will sign on to it. There is usually a few weeks of give and take as the author tries to accommodate the views and concerns of the other panel members and when everyone agrees, the opinion is released for publication. We aim to get the opinion out within 60 days of oral argument and almost always succeed. Sometimes, we decide cases en banc and that requires all the judges on the court to weigh in so there are usually more drafts and it takes longer but we still move them along pretty expeditiously. I would say as a general proposition that from the time all the briefs are filed and the record received from the trial court, it averages about five months for a summary disposition to about nine months or so to get a published opinion out.

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Postby Another » Thu Jul 25, 2013 11:36 am

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Thu Jul 25, 2013 2:58 pm

hopkins23 wrote:May it please the court:

What do you find most challenging about being a judge?

Do you quiz your law clerk applicants on legal matters? (e.g., asking them about what their views on the exhaustion requirement federal habeas corpus are). Or is it more to get a personality fit?


I think the most challenging part of being an appellate judge is remembering your role and what it isn't. Appellate courts are bound by the facts in the light most favorable to the prevailing party in the court below so I have to be careful about substituting my credibility determinations for that of the judge or jury below. I will often read testimony and say to myself, "That's a load of crap" but if the factfinder believed that testimony, I'm stuck with it. Along the same lines, I have to remind myself that I don't get to make policy for my state and must defer to the political branches unless I see a constitutional problem. The result of all this is that sometimes, I have to hold my nose while writing an opinion affirming the judgment below.


When I interview law clerk applicants, I start with the premise that the interview isn't going to be very useful in telling me who the best candidate is. However, they are useful in telling me who it isn't. During an interview, I try to put the candidate at ease as much as I can and I never let on if something they say bothers me. I don't ask them about legal matters unless it comes up in casual conversation and I really don't care about their views on what they think the law ought to be. I always assume that a 3L knows only enough law to be dangerous. In the interview, I want them to do the talking and my questions are typically about the skills courses they have taken, the nature of their extracurricular activities, and what they like to do for fun. The questions are designed to keep a conversation going and uncover the answers to two basic questions:

1) Does the reality measure up to the expectations from what I saw on the transcript, resume, writing sample and recommendations; and,

2) Will their personality be a good fit with me and the rest of my chambers staff.

FYI, Because writing samples may or may not be the sole work of the applicant, I also have the finalists do a three hour timed writing exercise where I give them a set of briefs and a very short transcript and a couple of cases. I tell them that they don't need to do any additional legal research and that they have three hours to prepare a bench memo analyzing the issue. This has proven to be very revealing and really separates those who will make a good clerk from those that just look good on paper. One candidate just got up and left my office conference room after about an hour, leaving behind a note that said "I just can't do this but I still want the job." Needless to say she didn't get it. I got the idea for this from a former colleague, now a federal circuit COA judge, and about half of my colleagues on my Court and our state Supreme Court also do something along these lines.

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Danger Zone » Thu Jul 25, 2013 3:13 pm

Opinions_R_Us wrote:One candidate just got up and left my office conference room after about an hour, leaving behind a note that said "I just can't do this but I still want the job."

:lol:

She must have thought the real test was standing up to you.

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Postby Another » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:11 am

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:45 am

hopkins23 wrote:What tips would you give to lawyers who argues before you? Perhaps tips that one generally hasn't heard.
You might not really have any basis for an answer, but what tips or advice would you give to an attorney who wants to do appellate advocacy? How can you get your foot in the door?

And, out of curiosity, if you're comfortable saying, who are some of the best oral advocates you've had in court?


Tips for appellate oral argument:

1) Be prepared and know the facts and the law regarding your case. It is kind of embarrassing when the judges know the record better than the lawyers do. We have caught out more than a few lawyers by asking a question like "Counsel, why doesn't the case of Smith v. Jones control our decision here" (citing a case that is directly on point and favorable to that lawyer's case) only to have the response be something like "Well your honor, every case turns on its facts and I think that case is distinguishable from this one." [sigh.]

2) Get in the right mindset. The best oral arguments are simply conversations about fine points of law among legal professionals so if you have that mindset that oral argument is you discussing the law (from the perspective of your client) with a small group of fellow lawyers, your credibility with the Court is enhanced and the better your credibility with your audience, the more likely you are to prevail (at least on the close ones).

3) Effective oral argument begins with an effective written argument - your brief. Your brief should set up the discussion I mentioned above by being organized and well written.

If you want to do appellate work as an attorney, the best way into that is to do appellate work as an attorney (or a law student). Clerking or at least interning with an appellate judge will give you a terrific insight to how to be effective on appeal. In my experience, doing trial work, at least for a while, will make you a better appellate attorney and vice versa and the best appellate attorneys I know either also do trial work or once were trial attorneys. In my own case, I know that I learned how to be a better trial lawyer by having to handle the appeals and my appellate experience taught me how to make a good record in the trial court to minimize any chance of reversal on appeal.

Ironically, despite the overall bleak economic picture for lawyers, at least in my state appellate specialists are a growing sector of practice. It seems that most trial lawyers find appeals to be outside their comfort zone and apparently many also consider the profit margins for appeals to be too low to make handling them worthwhile. The result is that a number of appellate boutique firms have sprung up in my state in the last decade or so and I believe that several of them at least are doing quite well.

There are around two dozen or so attorneys in my state that are simply an absolute pleasure to have argue in front of my Court in the sense that you know they will be thoroughly prepared, will answer any questions forthrightly and provide a stimulating discussion about the law. Only one of them is a BigLaw attorney and the others are from small or medium firms or the Attorney General's office and only one is a solo practitioner. I'm not going to name any names of good appellate practitioners (it would just go to their heads and I would see likely this post quoted in an advertisement somewhere.)

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Postby Another » Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:39 am

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:33 am

hopkins23 wrote:Feels like I'm one of the few keeping this thread alive, but I can't help posting because I want to make sure I take advantage of this golden opportunity to actually ask direct questions to a member of the bench (and get good answers too!).

Outside of your home, do you ever feel at ease to "be yourself"? When and where is that? I clerked/interned for a judge before and he always seemed so conservative and measured with his words, like he was being interviewed by 60 Minutes. I can understand why he'd be like that, but it seems like a hard road to travel.

Can you tell us one federal or state court judge (living or dead) whom you admire the most? If you can't choose one, perhaps state a few?

Have you ever sincerely regretted something you did or said as a judge? (so regretted it that you gave it more than a momentary thought) Either in an opinion or during oral argument?

Has a clerk or other judge ever made you do a 180 in terms of a case? (e.g., you were set on saying this statute was unconstitutional, but after reading a bench memo or dissenting opinion, you changed your mind).

What do you read in your spare time?


I'm not offended if no one has any questions, I am just here to help if I can and I have a day job that will soon start taking up more of my time as the summer draws to a close but while I am not sure how any of this will be helpful to a prospective law student or lawyer, I will try to answer all of your questions.

From my perspective at least, I am "myself" inside or outside my home. My friends and colleagues know that with me, "what you see is what you get." I take my job very seriously but that doesn't mean that any sense of humor I have doesn't occasionally surface during oral argument or in my writing. I think everyone should always be "measured in their words" (which, to me means "think before you speak") but being measured isn't the same as being stuffy or humorless.

There are quite a few judges that I admire for many different reasons. Among those known to most readers of TLS I would list the following:

Among deceased judges, I would list Justice Robert Jackson. He was a graduate of a no-name law school who excelled as a trial attorney, Solicitor General of the United States, Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal and one of the US Supreme Court justices most respected by his colleagues and lawyers generally for his common sense approach to interpreting the law. In this category I would also list the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist for his elegant legal writing style and his ability to build collegiality among his colleagues.

Among living judges, I would list Chief Justice John Roberts for his truly exceptional writing ability and his modest approach to his job (he drives himself to work in a minivan for goodness sake!) and I would also list a judge most of you have never heard of - Judge Charles Moylan of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (now retired). Judge Moylan followed a similar career path as I did to the appellate bench from prosecution and from the first time I heard him speak at a conference I attended in 1982, I knew he was one of the great ones. He is an outstanding speaker and writer with the ability to make the most abstract legal concepts easily understandable even by non-lawyers and although he and I are from different jurisdictions, we have been friends for more than 25 years and I often turn to him for advice and counsel and he has never steered me wrong.

Sure, I often second guess what I say. For example, I regretted coming down so hard on the lawyer in one of the war stories I posted in this forum when it resulted in him having an epileptic seizure. Judges have to strike a middle ground by not letting lawyers get away with things that they shouldn't do without coming across as a total curmudgeon. We don't always succeed in walking that line.

Yes, while it doesn't happen often, I have changed my mind 180 degrees after seeing another judge's analysis in a draft opinion or from a law clerk bringing a case to my attention that I wasn't previously aware of. I think any appellate judge worth his or her salt will keep an open mind right up to the time a case is published. We really do try to get it right and we know we are not infallible.

In my spare time I read either historical non-fiction (I'm a military history buff) or fiction such as espionage or military thrillers that have little to do with the law or lawyering (I avoid books by writers like John Grisham because reading them is to much like work and inaccurate to boot.)
Last edited by Opinions_R_Us on Mon Jul 29, 2013 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Scotusnerd
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Scotusnerd » Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:37 am

Just wanted to chime in and say that a number of us are probably lurking in this thread and reading the responses, even if we don't have questions.

Would you have any embarrassing stories of lawyer/judge cell phone mishaps during oral argument? :D I didn't realize how common they were before watching some arguments.

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Opinions_R_Us
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:50 am

Scotusnerd wrote:Just wanted to chime in and say that a number of us are probably lurking in this thread and reading the responses, even if we don't have questions.

Would you have any embarrassing stories of lawyer/judge cell phone mishaps during oral argument? :D I didn't realize how common they were before watching some arguments.



Despite our best efforts, we occasionally have a cell phone go off during oral argument. Unlike the federal courts, we have not taken the drastic step of banning all cell phones from our courthouse (lawyers can bring them in by showing their bar card but not the public) but the courtroom security folks have standing orders from us to confiscate the phone if it rings when court is in session. They usually can get it back at the end of the day but taking it seems to get the point across and we don't have many repeat offenders.

The best story along these lines was a panel in which I sat with our then Chief Judge. She opened court with the usual spiel to the lawyers about turning cell phones to silent mode and then called the first case. Oral argument was interrupted by a loud ringtone - a clip from the song of "Who Let the Dogs Out". We all looked around and then realized that it was the Chief Judge's phone (she is a dog lover). We never let her live that one down.

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Decimus
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Decimus » Mon Dec 23, 2013 12:24 pm

Opinions_R_Us wrote:
Bronte wrote:I have an ongoing friendly debate with a couple of law professor friends who insist that law school isn't a trade school and they see their job as teaching law as an academic exercise, not how to practice it. I see it as a professional school like medical school and a J.D degree should suggest you can advise or represent a client just as an M.D. suggests you can treat a patient.


Indeed, were it an academic degree it would be a PhD, would it not? I'm a PhD applying to law school because I reckoned it would be economically advantageous to navigate life with the aid of an actual trade to ply. So I certainly hope your perspective is shared by the faculty wherever I end up attending!

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Opinions_R_Us
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Mon Dec 23, 2013 1:00 pm

Decimus wrote:
Opinions_R_Us wrote:
Bronte wrote:I have an ongoing friendly debate with a couple of law professor friends who insist that law school isn't a trade school and they see their job as teaching law as an academic exercise, not how to practice it. I see it as a professional school like medical school and a J.D degree should suggest you can advise or represent a client just as an M.D. suggests you can treat a patient.


Indeed, were it an academic degree it would be a PhD, would it not? I'm a PhD applying to law school because I reckoned it would be economically advantageous to navigate life with the aid of an actual trade to ply. So I certainly hope your perspective is shared by the faculty wherever I end up attending!


Good luck with that. Most law schools and their faculty share the sentiments of my law professor friends but a few are starting to get it and are changing their approach. Of course getting a law school to respond to the market for lawyers is a lot like trying to turn a supertanker around. It isn't easy and it takes awhile. Anyway, I hope it all works out for you.

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Decimus
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Decimus » Mon Dec 23, 2013 1:14 pm

Thank you for all the information you have provided throughout this thread.

Earlier on you mentioned that one of your motivations for trying for the bench was to provide more time with your children. I am myself a father of two toddlers with a third on the way this summer. What area of law would you recommend as most advantageous for family life?

I am perfectly prepared to hear, "Fool! Run for the hills if you ever want to see your kids again!"

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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Opinions_R_Us » Mon Dec 23, 2013 3:59 pm

Decimus wrote:Thank you for all the information you have provided throughout this thread.

Earlier on you mentioned that one of your motivations for trying for the bench was to provide more time with your children. I am myself a father of two toddlers with a third on the way this summer. What area of law would you recommend as most advantageous for family life?

I am perfectly prepared to hear, "Fool! Run for the hills if you ever want to see your kids again!"


I won't tell you to run for the hills if the practice of law is really what you want to do (as opposed to just something to do, in which case you probably won't enjoy your work anyway). To answer your question, it isn't the area of law so much that determines if you can have a family life, it is who the employer is and what the culture there is. Some law firms, including some of the big ones, are known as "family friendly" and provide some degree of flexibility to accommodate a personal life more than others. Government service also generally provides a higher degree of normalcy that permits you to see your family on a regular basis. But in either case, you might be find yourself working in a sweat shop so my advice is to quietly ask around about the quality of life component of a prospective employer before taking any job offer.

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Decimus
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Re: State Appellate Judge and Adjunct Available for questions.

Postby Decimus » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:21 pm

Thank you for the input!




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