Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be many installments of UTR Cribs: Inside the Homes of Federal Judges. UTR Cribs was described back in this post as follows: "Inspired by MTV Cribs, UTR goes inside the halls of justice, with this exclusive report about the luxurious residences of the most well-heeled federal jurists." In a nutshell, think of UTR Cribs as "Lifestyles of the Rich and Federal." To paraphrase the description of MTV Cribs on the show's website, UTR Cribs is "the most exciting way to peep into your favorite [federal judicial] celebrities' homes, without getting slapped with a restraining order!"
As one can gather from the recurring hubbub over the need for federal judicial pay increases--which Chief Justice Rehnquist describes, perhaps hyperbolically, as "the most pressing issue facing the federal judiciary today"--the wealth enjoyed by many federal judges does not come from their salaries. With circuit judges earning only $167,600 a year, and district judges earning only $158,100 a year (see this table), federal judges make less than many first-year law firm associates. Federal judges certainly earn less than members of the Elect, who can rake in over $300,000 in their first year after leaving One First Street.
Although their salaries may be relatively modest, many federal judges are extremely wealthy. The sources of judicial affluence are varied, but common ones are lucrative pre-robescent employment, marrying into money, and inheritance or family wealth. As shown in this report by the Alliance for Justice, the average net worth for an appellate court judicial nominee from President Bush's first year in office was a healthy $1.63 million. The average net worth of one of President Clinton's 2000 nominees was even higher: $2 million. As Diddy, P., might say, "Being a federal judge? It's all about the BENCH-amins, baby!" Puff Daddy, It's All About the Benjamins, on All About the Benjamins (New Line Records 2002); see also Jennifer Lopez, Jenny from the Block, on This Is Me... Then (Sony Records 2002) ("Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got.") (Lo, J., protesting too much methinks).
(For example, consider the nine members of the Supreme Court. Despite salaries that are perfectly pleasant, but far from princely--Chief Justice Rehnquist earns $203,000, and each associate justice earns $194,300--the Supremes are pretty much rolling in it. As noted in UTR's irreverent review of their financial disclosure forms, Who wants to be a millionaire--AND a Supreme Court justice?, a majority of the justices are millionaires, some of them several times over.)
So yes, many federal judges have lots of cash stashed under their robes--cash they frequently drop on large and lavish lairs. In the weeks ahead, UTR Cribs will spirit you away to some of our nation's most exclusive residential enclaves, popping into federal judicial mansions around the country. Future destinations of UTR Cribs include Manhattan's super-patrician Upper East Side; sun-drenched Palm Beach, Florida; and some of Los Angeles's toniest suburbs, including Ranchos Palos Verdes and the Oak Grove neighborhood of San Marino.
Today, however, with the election moving into high gear, UTR Cribs follows the candidates to the battleground state of Ohio. The Buckeye State is home to Judge Susan J. Dlott, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Judge Dlott is married to Stanley M. Chesley, the prominent, hugely successful plaintiffs' lawyer.
Stan Chesley and Judge Dlott recently bought a new house. And this, dear readers, is no ordinary house. Holy mansion, Batman!
Real estate agents had said it would take someone with extravagant taste to buy this house. Enter prominent class-action lawyer Stan Chesley.
Chesley has purchased what is believed to be the most expensive single-family home listed in Greater Cincinnati, possibly ever.
The elegant French chateau... in Indian Hill, which has six bedrooms, seven full bathrooms, custom chandeliers and a wine cellar, carried an asking price of $11.9 million when it first went on the market last October.
That's the biggest price ever listed on the Multiple Listing Service of Greater Cincinnati, which has been around for about 60 years. . . . .
The home includes two four-car garages with apartments on top and 27,000 square feet of living space. It sits on 5.3 acres nestled into 300 acres of private green space.
There's also a game room, exercise room, a theater/media room, separate two-bedroom carriage house for live-in parents or hired help and an outdoor kitchen for entertaining friends and family. The indoor kitchen has hidden appliances.
Chesley is married to Susan Dlott, who was appointed a U.S. District Court judge by President Clinton in 1995.
The home even has its own Web site. [A3G's note: It appears that the site has been taken offline. But you can get more details about the house in this realtor's listing. Additional realty listings for the property, featuring the dimensions of specific rooms, have also been taken offline--but you can access cached versions of them here and here.]
WOW! With almost 30,000 square feet, Judge Dlott's federal judicial mega-mansion is larger than certain small federal courthouses in less populous judicial districts.
The reader who submitted this delicious tip to A3G offered additional information about Judge Dlott and her high-flying hubby:
[U]ber-plaintiff's lawyer Stan Chesley's wife is left-wing judicial diva Susan Dlott, of the Southern District of Ohio. Not as glamorous as a circuit judge, but at least not an icky state court jurist! Judge Dlott was appointed the bench by President Clinton following a number of major donations to Clinton and the Democrats by her husband. Of course, those two things are surely unrelated....
In a subsequent message, UTR's loyal correspondent added:
More on Judge Dlott.... And, it's not that I have a vendetta against her or anything (reportedly, they are lovely people, and I have yet to have the opportunity to appear in her courtroom). But I do think this additional information may qualify her as a Judicial Diva, even aside from the 27,000 square foot home! Therefore, I feel compelled to apprise you of this situation, even though she is but a meager district court judge here in S.D. Ohio. However, I'm sure you'll agree with me that it takes grit and determination to be a Judicial Diva as a district court judge! (What with that appeal-as-of-right business and all.) So, here goes...
This op-ed about Judge Dlott in the Cincinnati Enquirer of April 30, 2003, entitled "Judge Has Stepped in It Now," begins as follows: "A federal judge who lets her dogs dump on the floor of our U.S. Courthouse and once had them sworn in as federal marshals might have a problem getting much respect from real law enforcement officers."
And here's another article, from the Cincinnati Enquirer of February 7, 2004, in which Judge Dlott's potential recusal in a white collar bank fraud case is discussed by the criminal defendant... and caught on tape by the FBI! The defendant in question liked his chances with Judge Dlott, what with her being "sympathetic to white collar criminals," as well as being "one of the best friends" of said defendant's own attorney.
With press like this, I too would want to repair every evening to a massive French chateau--perhaps to spend a long evening in the well-stocked wine cellar!
Oh, I forgot to also mention that Judge Dlott's husband represented the victims of the bank fraud case in a civil suit in state court, and garnered a $16.8 million settlement for them. Not that this would be a conflict or anything, because he wasn't appearing in HER court, you see.
Article III Groupie agrees with her correspondent: the mini-scandals discussed in the articles cited above leave the unmistakable odor of canine fecal matter in the air. But she also believes that, the bad press coverage notwithstanding, Judge Dlott and her hubby have a pretty good gig going. They enjoy the best of both worlds: the money of a successful plaintiffs' lawyer, and the power of a federal judge!
Thus, despite her deeply troubling left-wing politics, the Honorable Susan J. Dlott is an inspiration to Article III Groupie. A3G describes herself as "an aspiring federal judicial diva with a real estate fetish." Judge Dlott demonstrates to A3G that, if she plays her cards right, she too can score herself a lifetime appointment exercising the judicial power of the United States--and a phat crib!
May your champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true,