One of UTR's regular correspondents brings us this report from lovely New Haven, Connecticut, home to the recent Yale Law School alumni reunion (as well as an outpost of Popeye's Chicken; for the record, A3G has nothing against Popeye's):
I probably should stop writing you. Your publication of several prior tips of mine, combined with our shared obsession with the federal judiciary--and, until recently, a common internet service provider--has led several friends of mine to accuse me of being you (although I'm not nearly as clever and funny). But your blog is just too much fun, so I continue to correspond with you against my better judgment.
I was just writing with a "Judicial SIGHT-ation." This past weekend I went up to New Haven, CT, for my Yale Law School reunion. I was hoping to score celebrity sightings of several prominent federal judges expected to be in attendance, including Judge Stephen Reinhardt (class of 1954) and Judge Sonia Sotomayor (class of 1979; frequently mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee in a Kerry administration).
Unfortunately, I made it up to New Haven a little late, and despite camping out in the Omni Hotel lobby like a stalker, I scored only one SIGHT-ation: Judge Patricia M. Wald, class of 1951, formerly of the (yes I'm crossing myself) D.C. Circuit, and currently serving on the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (chaired by Judge Laurence Silberman, her former D.C. Circuit colleague).
Judge Wald is a little woman with a big sense of style [see picture at left]. She was looking great in a sharp black suit, accessorized with a tasteful floral-print scarf and a quilted black purse with gold-chain shoulder strap. In a nod to the crisp fall weather, she was also sporting a black three-quarter-length coat.
Noted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams (class of 1959), a legal but non-judicial celebrity, also made an appearance in the Omni's lobby.
Keep up the great work on your blog--don't leave us!
--Your Yalie Fan
A3G has a few words to add concerning two of the judges mentioned in the message above, Judge Sotomayor and Judge Wald. Both women graduated from Yale Law School and went on to become federal appeals court judges, but they are very different people.
Judge Sotomayor of the Second Circuit is one of the most interesting individuals in the federal judiciary, with a remarkable life story ready to be turned into a Univision made-for-TV movie (preferably with the words "Mi vida" somewhere in the title). Born in the housing projects of the South Bronx, she overcame numerous obstacles (including childhood diabetes) on her way to becoming the first Puerto Rican woman to serve as a federal appeals court judge. After graduating summa cum laude from Princeton, she went on to Yale Law School, where she served on the law journal. After working in the New York County District Attorney's Office under the distinguished Robert Morgenthau, and several years in private practice, she became a district judge in the renowned Southern District of New York in 1992.
Although Judge Sotomayor was nominated to the district bench by the first President Bush, she encountered significant opposition from conservatives when President Clinton nominated her to the Second Circuit. Conservatives viewed Judge Sotomayor much as liberals viewed Miguel Estrada: as a young, high-powered Hispanic, with deeply ideological but craftily concealed views, on an express train to One First Street (or, as Rush Limbaugh memorably quipped about Judge Sotomayor, "on a rocket ship" to the Supreme Court). Conservatives feared that Judge Sotomayor's Latina background and inspiring personal story would make it difficult to fight her history-making nomination, which would surely be popular with the Hispanic community.
After much delay, Judge Sotomayor was finally confirmed to the Second Circuit during the Clinton Administration. Not surprisingly, the youthful Judge Sotomayor--she's only 50--is frequently mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee in a Kerry administration (see, e.g., here and here). If nominated, she would likely fare better than Estrada; unlike the kid from Tegucigalpa, Judge Sotomayor is muy simpática. Mention of her name invariably generates comments like "super nice," "very sweet," and "just a lovely person." In other words, even though 500 Pearl Street is many miles away from the South Bronx (metaphorically if not literally), "Don't be fooled by the robes that she's got; she's still Sonia from the block!"
And now, a digression. Some time ago, one of UTR's readers made the following complaint to A3G: "Your version of the federal judiciary is nothing short of ridiculous, so far removed from the day-to-day realities of the federal courts as to be laughable. UTR offers a Melrose Place version of the Article III judiciary: an overdramatized world improbably populated by judicial superhotties and big pimpin' feeder judges, plagued by rampant bench-slappery, and dominated by judicial divas vamping about in black robes. . . . Terms start to lose their meaning if you use them indiscriminately. Have you ever written about a female judge who isn't a 'judicial diva'?"
A3G has at least two responses. First, as a former clerk herself--who worked on her fair share of snooze-inducing cases--A3G knows all too well that the federal judiciary can be boring and that her portrait isn't exactly realistic. Can you blame her for trying to make the federal courts and their denizens a little more interesting, sexy and fun than they are in real life? Second, in response to this reader's specific question, A3G cites the sweet-tempered Judge Sotomayor as an example of a female federal judge who is not a judicial diva. (As for whether Judge Sotomayor is a judicial hottie, you can decide for yourself--see picture at right.)
In contrast to Judge Sotomayor, the well-dressed Judge Wald was known for being a bit of a judicial diva when she was on the D.C. Circuit. Some of her colleagues had "issues" with her; Judge Silberman, with whom she now serves on the WMD Commission, "hated Judge Wald with a passion." But one can understand why she had to be difficult at times. Judge Wald didn't attain the lofty chief judgeship of the D.C. Circuit, as well as the distinction of being the only female feeder in the top 20 feeder judges (for OT 1994 to OT 2003), by being "nice." To get as far as she did, sometimes she had to be abrasive and unpleasant.
There is a reason why so many older female judges are judicial divas. Judges like Judge Wald (76), Second Circuit Judge Amalya L. Kearse (67), and Third Circuit Judge Dolores K. Sloviter (72) all entered the legal profession at a time when it was even more male-dominated than it is today. In order to succeed as female lawyers back then, they had to be tough cookies. They had to show their strength, not their sweetness. Being difficult and demanding was critical to achieving the legal professional success that brought these women to the federal bench.
Today, of course, things have improved significantly. It is now much easier for a woman to enjoy professional success within the law without being a man-eating, ball-busting litigatrix. This is why, taken as a group, younger female judges like Judge Sotomayor tend to be much nicer than older female judges like Judge Wald. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Some older female judges are quite nice, such as Ninth Circuit Judge Dorothy W. Nelson, and some younger female judges are rather difficult, such as First Circuit Judge Sandra L. Lynch (also a possible Kerry Supreme Court nominee). But the generalization, nicely illustrated by two prominent female judges who graduated from the same law school some thirty years apart, is fundamentally sound.
Right now you're wondering: If Article III Groupie successfully follows Judge Kozinski's advice and becomes a federal judge by age 35, what will she be like on the bench? Well, the odd mix of swagger and vulnerability found in the pages of UTR should give you a good idea. As noted fashion photographer Mert Alas said admiringly of Jennifer Lopez, A3G will be "a diva with a baby’s heart."
P.S. A3G is looking for UTR correspondents to cover two upcoming events that should be rich sources for Judicial Sightations: the Harvard Law School alumni reunion, taking place from October 21 to 24, and the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention, taking place from November 11 to 13.
One UTR reader has already volunteered his reporting services for the Federalist Society conference, but because several panel discussions will be taking place simultaneously at that star-studded extravaganza, A3G would like to have multiple correspondents on the scene. If you're interested in helping out, please take detailed notes on the federal judicial celebrities that you encounter, and then e-mail Article III Groupie with the scoop!