Welcome to Justice is Blind. In the finest Page Six tradition, UTR will regularly publish so-called "blind items," scrumptious morsels of gossip in which the identities of the federal judges under discussion remain undisclosed. The principle behind "Justice Is Blind" items can be summed up by roughly paraphrasing the motto of the old show Dragnet: "The gossip you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been omitted, to protect the guilty--who are, after all, federal judges."
Before proceeding, Article III Groupie has a few preliminary comments to make. First, she would like to apologize, yet again, for her absence over the past few days. Unfortunately, the partners she works for have been harassing her with that unpleasantness known as "work." Don't they understand that she has better things to be doing? There are federal judicial rumors just waiting to be mongered!
Second, Article III Groupie would like to emphasize that she is aware of her legal duties as a responsible journalist, as well as the significant First Amendment protection she enjoys. She has just reread New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), which sets an appropriately demanding standard for public figures to satisfy when suing for libel. Federal judges are, of course, public figures, and Article III Groupie--far from harboring any actual malice towards these legal superstars--admires them deeply, even obsessively. When it comes to federal judges, Article III Groupie loves "not wisely, but too well." (Please don't correct her in schoolmarmish fashion for her use of "actual malice," which she recognizes as a term of art within libel law; she was just trying to make a cute pun!)
Article III Groupie has also just read last year's decision by the Ninth Circuit in Batzel v. Smith, 333 F.3d 1018 (9th Cir. 2003). The court's opinion--authored by Judge Marsha Berzon, Left-Wing Judicial Diva and member of the Elect--provides important First Amendment protection to internet sites like UTR. For a learned exploration of the doctrinal implications of Batzel--well, go somewhere else! To echo Barbie's famous dictum concerning math, Article III Groupie says: "Case law is hard!" This is why she leaves the heavy lifting of legal analysis to other blawgs. Having read two whole cases--or at least dropped two whole case names--Article III Groupie has done her cardio for the day. She has eaten her brussels sprouts, and now it's time for dessert: federal judicial gossip!
And so, without further ado, here are the inaugural "Justice Is Blind" items for your edification and entertainment:
1. The Right-Wing Judicial Divas do not have a monopoly on diva behavior. Like some high-maintenance celebrity, this West Coast appeals court judge requires not only bottled water, but a specific brand of bottled water: Evian. When he was in another city for an oral argument calendar, someone made the mistake of bringing this judge Poland Spring. This triggered a judicial tantrum: "I can't drink this! I can taste the plastic!"
2. This Southern District of New York trial court judge used the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl Street for his daughter's wedding, presumably at some taxpayer expense (they buff the floors every day as it is).
3. This well-known circuit court judge, who has sent more than one clerk of his to the Supremes, has issues concerning the appropriate treatment of female clerks in his chambers. These issues go beyond mere banter about a can of Coke with floaties. (If this reference eludes you, please see this transcript of Professor Anita Hill's testimony at Justice Thomas's 1991 confirmation hearings.)
In case you're wondering, "floaties" is an Article III Groupie neologism, defined as "particulate matter suspended in a liquid in which it does not belong." Usage example: "Excuse me, waiter, may I please have another glass of water? This one has floaties." For the record, if you are ever inclined to offer Article III Groupie a carbonated, pubic-hair-laden beverage, please remember she prefers Diet Coke. Article III Groupie works hard to maintain her girlish figure, and pubic hair has enough calories as it is.
4. UTR has previously discussed--in bitter rants such as this one--the yawning chasm between the Brahmin, i.e., Supreme Court clerks, and the Untouchables, i.e., the rest of us. This southern appeals court judge has a caste system within his own chambers. His two clerks from "top" law schools assist the judge with his work on published opinions, while his two clerks from "lesser" law schools work on unpublished dispositions, provide research support to their two co-clerks, and run miscellanous errands.
5. Even though she looks like a sweet old grandma who loves to bake, this East Coast circuit judge is one tough cookie. A clerk once asked her for permission to step out of chambers briefly to check on his girlfriend, who had been in an accident and was hospitalized. The judge refused to let him go, telling him, "The only time you should be in the hospital rather than in chambers is when you are in need of emergency medical treatment!"
In the finest Gossiplist.com tradition, in addition to sharing blind items about federal justices, "Justice Is Blind" will reveal the identities of individuals featured in the blind items of others. Let's start with "the Gray Lady," namely, the New York Times, a favorite among UTR readers.
The June 6, 2004 issue of the New York Times Magazine featured this interesting cover story on the sentencing of white-collar criminals by prosecutor turned novelist Mark Costello. Costello, who worked for five years an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of New Jersey, describes two unnamed federal trial judges in his article.
1. "In my time as a fed, I knew only one judge who took pleasure in sentencing. This judge was smart and very hard-working. He said he believed that male prosecutors should wear only white shirts. If you came in with a blue or, God forbid, a patterned shirt, you would be admonished from the bench. He didn't care what defense attorneys or female prosecutors wore in terms of shirts, which some women found a relief and others considered insulting. The fact that the judge had us all thinking about the meaning of shirts, and the rules about shirts, gives you some idea of the unique psychic force field that was the man's courtroom. When the judge rendered a sentence on an embezzling bank executive, you could see him up on the bench, going over the sentencing memo submitted by the defense, reviewing the various grounds for mercy:
Your Honor, my client has given generously to the Temple Beth Emmanuel. He is a Little League dad. Last month his wife lost a breast to cancer. He has never embezzled before and will never embezzle again. He is sorry, Judge. He is human, Judge. He is ruined, Judge.
I could see the judge reading down the paragraphs, his neck cords working. For him, each of these things was an advantage the banker had that a black kid from Newark's Fourth Ward didn't have. . . . . [This] 'worming out,' this use of white-collar establishmentarianism to humanize and generate the perfume of sympathy, was physically repulsive to the judge. The only way to purge disgust was to blast Mr. Embezzler, to annihilate him in words, dress him down, rub his nose in his crime, then to max Mr. Embezzler under the guidelines (that is, to give him a year and a half, instead of a year), then to blast the defense attorney for having 16 typos in his sentencing memo. Disgust and anger were ebbing now, and with them, the pleasure of release. The judge would then remember to appear evenhanded. He would turn to me and find something in me that repulsed him as well. Despite his solid sentences, prosecutors hated being 'wheeled out,' or assigned, to his courtroom."
Item  is referring to Judge Alfred J. Lechner, Jr..
2. "We much preferred the gentler, more dignified, more scholarly judges. One judge was particularly beloved. He was literally courtly, the very picture of a judge. Born wealthy, this judge had never grubbed for money. Being a rational man, he proceeded cautiously when dealing with any phenomenon that he did not feel he understood. I think that is why this judge was a relatively timid sentencer, afraid to really ram a defendant."
Item  is referring to Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise.
Thanks to all of my correspondents for these scoops. Please continue to submit proposed "Justice Is Blind" items by e-mail; Article III Groupie is keeping an eye out for them!
Further affiant sayeth not,