Article III Groupie recently received this inquiry from a reader:
Why doesn't UTR cover state court judges? If you are a judicial conservative, and presumably a card-carrying member of the Federalist Society, don't you believe that the distinguished members of state judiciaries deserve coverage in your blog's glamour-soaked pages?
--"State Court Groupie"
Article III Groupie has at least two responses to "State Court Groupie." First, limiting UTR to the federal judiciary allows for more focused and in depth coverage, permitting readers to get a very close look underneath the robes of these magnificent jurists. If A3G were to expand UTR's coverage to include the thousands of state court judges around the country, it would be impossible to achieve the same level of familiarity and intimacy with judicial celebrities.
Although sizable, the federal bench is still small enough for UTR's readers to get a decent sense of some of its more colorful characters. With almost 900 members (or 1600 counting senior judges), the federal judiciary is roughly the size of the graduating class at a large high school. Actually, hold that thought. What if the federal judiciary were a high school? Like the high schools depicted in such cinematic classics as Heathers and Clueless, Chief Justice John Marshall High School for Federal Judges has its cliques, popular kids, and social outcasts. Here are some of the more prominent personalities at John Marshall High, who dominate the hallways and classrooms of the schoolhouse, taking up more than their fair share of yearbook space:
--the class cutup, who is absolutely hilarious but demands a lot of attention;
--the captain of the football team;
--the brilliant bad boy, whose behavioral issues prevent him from reaching his full potential;
--the queen of the nerds;
--the popular rich girl who wants everyone to like her, so she never gives direct answers to anything, choosing instead to issue fuzzy and unclear statements that make it sound like she agrees with everyone;
--the class genius;
A3G's second justification for not discussing state court judges may require a bit more explanation. A3G is quite aware of the debate that has raged within the pages of law reviews concerning concepts such as federal and state court parity and comity. And in this debate, she tends to fall on the side of state court supporters. She has considerable faith in the state courts as co-equal interpreters of the Constitution, and she believes that, as a general matter, state court decisions should be accorded significant deference by federal courts.
But her respect for state courts as institutions does not translate into a fascination with state court judges as individuals. If Article III Groupie is being accused of federal judicial elitism, she pleads guilty as charged! If federal judges are major motion picture and prime time television stars, state judges are actors on daytime soap operas. And just as soap stars don't make the cover of Vanity Fair, state court judges don't make the pages of "Underneath Their Robes."
To be sure, a fair number of federal judges and judicial nominees were once denizens of state courthouses (see, e.g., the Right-Wing Judicial Divas). Indeed, as the judicial appointments process has become more politically charged, a higher proportion of federal judicial nominees are being drawn from the state and non-Article III federal benches, moving the American model of judicial selection perhaps closer to the European civil service model. As long as they haven't issued any off-the-wall opinions, nominees with prior judicial experience, such as state court, magistrate, and bankruptcy judges, are regarded as fairly "safe" picks for the Article III bench. They are often less controversial picks than high-profile practicing lawyers who have litigated hot button issues, or legal academics with lengthy paper trails littered with controversial "thought experiments."
But the point remains: although a few soap opera stars have made the jump into the major leagues (see here for a list), most never manage to break out of daytime television, just as the vast majority of state court judges will never see their names on the Article III silver screen. Until the president signs that commission, a state court judge is nothing more than a state court judge. And even though service on a state court is certainly admirable, a yawning chasm of fabulousness separates state court judges and federal judicial celebrities.
Right now you're probably thinking, "A3G, what was the point of those last few rambling paragraphs? You still haven't explained your second rationale for dissing state court judges." True enough, so let's cut to the chase. As it turns out, Article III Groupie's second reason for not covering state court judges does not require a scholarly exploration of federal and state court parity, nor does it call for a comparative analysis of American and European judicial selection processes. It's actually quite simple, capable of expression in five little words:
State court judges are ghetto.
Article III Groupie knows of at least a dozen UTR readers who are fine and upstanding state court judges, and she apologizes to these brilliant and distinguished jurists for such an overbroad indictment. But she can't help noticing that some state court judges seem to have a knack for getting themselves into hot water--and we're not talking about the judicial jacuzzi here. Here are just a few of the dirty secrets that state court judges are allegedly hiding beneath their robes (for all the gory details, click on the hyperlink at the start of each item):
(1) Penile pumps. An Oklahoma state court judge, "[w]hile seated on the bench, used a male enhancement pump, shaved and oiled his nether region, and pleasured himself." To quote the Legal Reader, "Underneath Their Robes, Indeed!" (Thanks to the many readers and fellow bloggers who brought this item to A3G's attenion.)
(2) Porn. The same Oklahoma judge viewed pornographic images and e-mails on a chambers computer and sexually harassed a court employee.
(3) Robbery suspects on the lam. A New York state court judge helped a robbery suspect to escape arrest, by telling him to escape from her courtroom through a side door, "even though she knew a detective was waiting in another hallway to arrest him on charges in a recent robbery."
(4) Speeding tickets galore. A recently confirmed New Jersey Supreme Court justice racked up eight (8) speeding tickets, and a prior unsuccessful nominee had a bench warrant issued for her arrest due to an unpaid speeding ticket. (The unsuccessful nominee's driving record "included more than a dozen motor vehicle violations, mostly for speeding or traffic accidents, and she had her license suspended three times.")
(5) An admiration for Bon Jovi. A New York state court judge (soon to be a former judge) got into a shoving match with four other women at a Bon Jovi concert at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, during which she "improperly asserted the prestige and influence of her judicial office." (UTR doesn't know what's worse--the judge's improper invocation of her judicial office, or her presence at a Bon Jovi concert!)
My goodness! Article III Groupie realizes that nobody's perfect, and she can think of several federal judges who have done things that perhaps they're not proud of. But penile enhancement pumps? Brawling at Bon Jovi concerts? Because UTR is a reputable blog, A3G must draw the line somewhere--and state court judges are on the far side of that line.
And so, my dear "State Court Groupie"--what a degraded condition that must be!--please accept this explanation of why UTR does not, as a general matter, devote space in its hallowed pages to those penile-enhancement-pumping, porn-addicted, felon-harboring, Bon Jovi fans who can't drive, otherwise known as state court judges.
An incorrigible federal court snob,
P.S. Article III Groupie may be out of town on business later this week (and possibly into the weekend), so she may be a little slow in issuing new posts and responding to e-mail messages. She thanks her readers for their kind indulgence.