Last Tuesday, January 11, President Bush nominated Judge Michael Chertoff, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, to join the Cabinet as the next Secretary of Homeland Security. After the spectacular implosion of the nomination of former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, President Bush was clearly looking for a "safe," eminently confirmable pick. And who could be a safer pick than a sitting federal judge? As the readers of UTR know, federal judges are paragons of probity (in contrast to their icky state court counterparts).
Judge Chertoff has made several prior appearances in these pages, and after the announcement of his nomination, numerous visitors accessed UTR seeking information about Judge Chertoff. Consider the following internet searches that brought people to this blog:
--Michael Chertoff personal life
--is michael chertoff married
--michael chertoff wife
--Michael Chertoff gay
--michael chertoff bad judge
--michael chertoff gremlin
--Michael Chertoff Roman Catholic
Clearly the public has a burning desire to peek beneath the robe of this distinguished jurist! Fortunately for the American people, Article III Groupie has already done some research of her own into the Honorable Mike Chertoff, which she will now share in this post.
Enquiring minds what to know: What's up with Judge Chertoff's personal life? How much is he worth? What does he like to do in his spare time? And are there any skeletons in his closet that could derail his nomination?
To find out the answers to these and other questions, take the "Chertoff Challenge." Welcome to UTR's latest feature (which may or may not become a regular offering, depending on reader response): Quiz Show, trivia questions about your favorite federal judges!
For your entertainment and edification, here are 18 trivia questions about Judge Chertoff. Keep track of how many questions you answer correctly, and see how you measure up using the scale that appears at the end of the quiz. After taking the quiz, you'll know all there is to know about this fabulous judicial celebrity. In reading over the answers that follow each question, you'll also acquire additional nuggets of knowledge about some of his Article III colleagues (both on the Third Circuit and other courts).
Let's get started, shall we?
1. Judge Michael Chertoff was born on November 28, 1953, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is the son of:
(a) a real estate developer
(b) a rabbi
(c) an orthopedic surgeon
(d) a waiter
(e) a prostitute
Answer: (b). Judge Chertoff's father was a rabbi; for those of you who ran searches for "michael chertoff roman catholic," the answer is probably "no."
Answer (a) would be correct if we were talking about Judge Chertoff's colleague, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, the daughter of legendary real estate developer Fred Trump (and the big sister of celebrity developer Donald Trump; presumably she'll be attending her brother's wedding to model Melania Knauss this coming weekend).
Answer (d) would be right if we were discussing another Chertoffian colleague, Judge Theodore A. McKee, whose father was a waiter on the New York Central Railroad (see here). As for (e), it would be correct if we were talking about Bernie Kerik, President Bush's original, scandal-ridden nominee. (Kerik's mama was a ho? Hmm, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...)
2. Judge Chertoff attended:
(a) Harvard College and Harvard Law School
(b) Harvard College and Yale Law School
(c) Princeton College and Harvard Law School
(d) Princeton College and Yale Law School
(e) University of Pennsylvania and Yale Law School
Answer: (a). Judge Chertoff is "double-barreled Crimson," a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, both magna cum laude. Response (d) is the educational background of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., a bench buddy of Judge Chertoff, and response (e) is that of another colleague, Judge Edward R. Becker.
3. Judge Chertoff was a summer associate at which highly prestigious, but now non-existent, law firm?
(a) Hill & Barlow
(b) Brobeck, Phelger & Harrison
(c) Reboul, MacMurray, Hewitt & Maynard
(d) Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin
Answer: (d). Miller Cassidy was a small, super-elite Washington litigation boutique that was well-known for its success in many areas, including appellate and Supreme Court litigation, white-collar criminal practice, and constitutional law. In late 2000, Texas mega-firm Baker Botts acquired Miller Cassidy, hoping to "buy its way into a Supreme Court presence" (as explained in this very interesting article by Tony Mauro).
But things didn't work out as Baker Botts hoped. After the acquisition, many of the Elect who worked at Miller Cassidy scattered to the four winds. As noted in Mauro's article, "[Supreme Court superstar Nathan] Lewin did not move to Baker Botts with his firm, opting instead to open his own shop, Lewin & Lewin, with his daughter Alyza. [Former SG Seth] Waxman did not return to his prior home, moving instead to Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr). Former William Rehnquist clerk Jody Kris went with Waxman, and former Byron White clerk Scott Nelson went over to Public Citizen Litigation Group."
4. Judge Chertoff clerked for Judge Murray Gurfein (2d Cir.), followed by:
(a) Justice Powell
(b) Justice Brennan
(c) then-Justice Rehnquist
(d) Judge Chertoff never clerked at One First Street, proving that members of the Great Unwashed are capable of having fulfilling legal careers.
Answer: (b). Judge Chertoff clerked for Justice Brennan, which many might find surprising given Judge Chertoff's conservatism. Response (c) is true of the studly Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. (D.C. Cir.). If Judge Chertoff is confirmed and has a successful tenure as DHS Secretary, and if a Supreme Court slot opens up late in President Bush's second term, Judges Chertoff and Roberts could find themselves locked in mortal combat for a berth at One First Street.
As for answer (d) -- don't be ridiculous! That flagrantly false statement was included for comic relief.
5. After his Supreme Court clerkship, Judge Chertoff worked as an associate at which top law firm?
(a) Cravath, Swaine & Moore
(b) Sullivan & Cromwell
(c) Latham & Watkins
(d) Kirkland & Ellis
(e) Jenner & Block
Answer: (c). Judge Chertoff was an associate at Latham from 1980 to 1983. About a decade later -- after working as a federal prosecutor in New York, serving as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, and serving as Special Counsel to the Whitewater Committee of the Senate -- Judge Chertoff returned to Latham as a partner.
6. From 1983 to 1987, Judge Chertoff worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York -- a renowned office, brimming over with legal celebrities in the making (which remains true today). Which of the following individuals was NOT a colleague of Judge Chertoff in the Sovereign District of New York?
Answer: (c). Judge Leval is an alum of the S.D.N.Y., but he worked in the office well before Chertoff's arrival. When Chertoff was an AUSA, Judge Leval was already a district court judge.
Giuliani, Jones, and Savarese all worked with Judge Chertoff in the U.S. Attorney's Office. As noted in this article, Judge Chertoff "had barely finished his first year [as an AUSA] when his supervisor, Barbara S. Jones, now a federal judge, picked him to work on a unique organized crime investigation alongside the head of the office, United States attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani."
John Savarese was also a member of the trial team in what developed into a legendary Mafia prosecution, known as the "Commission" case. Savarese is now a partner at Wachtell Lipton, the super-profitable New York law firm. (He later became famous -- or infamous, according to some -- as Martha Stewart's first, pre-Morvillo lawyer.)
7. In 1987, Judge Chertoff hopped across the river to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey, to serve as First Assistant in that office. In 1990, at the tender age of 36, he was appointed by the first President Bush (and confirmed by the Senate) to serve as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, a post he held from 1990 to 1994.
Chertoff personally handled the securities fraud prosecution of Eddie Antar, founder of the "Crazy Eddie" discount electronics store chain. What was the Crazy Eddie motto, featured prominently in its advertising campaigns?
(a) "His prices are INSANE!"
(b) "You'd be CRAZY not to shop here!"
(c) "You've got questions, we've got answers."
(d) "Price, selection, service."
(e) "Imagine that!"
Answer: (a). At the end of Crazy Eddie's ubiquitous TV spots, a manic actor would shout this slogan at the viewer, in rather deranged fashion. Answers (d) and (e) are slogans previously used by electronics retailer Circuit City.
As noted here, at Antar's trial, Judge Chertoff "was known in the Antar corner as 'The Wraith' and 'Count Chertoff,' for the way his long arms raked the floor and for the bruise-colored hollows in his cheeks."
8. As U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Judge Chertoff oversaw numerous high-profile investigations and prosecutions, including the case of this disgraced public figure:
(a) Thomas J. Whelan, former mayor of Jersey City
(b) James Treffinger, former Republican party official in New Jersey
(c) Sol Wachtler, former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
(d) James McGreevey, former New Jersey governor and current "gay American"
Answer: (c). Another fine example of an icky state court judge, Sol Wachtler stalked, harassed, and attempted to extort his former mistress, Joy Silverman. His extortion scheme included sending a condom in the mail to Silverman's young daughter. Wachtler pleaded guilty to sending threats through the mail, and he was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Wachtler later wrote a memoir, After the Madness, in which he discussed his time in prison and his struggle with mental illness.
9. In 1994, Judge Chertoff left government and returned to private practice, becoming a partner in the Newark (NJ) office of Latham & Watkins. Starting in 1994, he also served as special counsel to the Republican members of the Senate Whitewater comittee. Judge Chertoff was involved in investigating which of the following scandals that swirled around the Clintons:
(a) the mysterious death of Vince Foster
(b) the mysterious disappearance (and reappearance) of the Rose Law Firm billing records of Hillary Clinton
(c) the mysterious stain on the blue dress of Monica Lewinsky (how on earth did that stain get there?)
(d) scandals (a) and (b), but not (c)
(e) all of the above
Answer: (d). Chertoff was involved in investigating Vince Foster's death and the billing records of Senatrix Clinton, but his Whitewater service concluded in 1996 -- well before the appearance on the scene of the curvaceously alluring Monica Lewinsky, memorably dubbed "the face that launched a thousand subpoenas."
(Coincidentally, UTR sources report that Judge Chertoff -- who is known to have close relationships with his law clerks, frequently going out to lunch with them -- has in his employ a rather attractive young clerk named Monica.)
10. In 2001, after nomination by the President and confirmation by the Senate (by a vote of 95-1), Judge Chertoff assumed the post of Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ's Criminal Division. During his time as head of the Criminal Division, Chertoff was involved in development of the Patriot Act, and he made investigating and prosecuting terrorism cases a priority of the Criminal Division. He earned praise for his hard work, his leadership skills, and his commitment to making terrorism a priority of the Department.
But left-wing critics (and even some right-wing critics) believed that Chertoff went too far in asserting governmental and executive branch authority. Liberals attacked Chertoff as an overzealous prosecutor with insufficient respect for civil liberties, and one pundit bestowed the following sobriquet upon Chertoff:
(a) "The Grim Reaper"
(b) "The Cryptkeeper"
(c) "Ashcroft's Top Gremlin"
(d) "Hector Elizondo with anorexia"
(e) "The Wraith"
Answer: (c). Chertoff's somewhat sepulchral appearance may make answers (a), (b), and (e) appear plausible. Response (d) is not without validity as an observation. Compare Elizondo, at right, with Chertoff, at far right.
The correct choice, however, is (c). In this article, lawyer and writer Elaine Cassel wrote, "[N]ow I have a new gremlin to watch, someone who is as intent on undermining the law and Constitution as Ashcroft. I am referring to the man behind the criminal prosecution of terrorists, Michael Chertoff." Later in the same piece, she described Chertoff as "a scary looking guy if ever there was one" (but one UTR reader begs to differ).
11. In March 2003, Judge Chertoff was nominated by President Bush to the Third Circuit. He was confirmed by the Senate a few short months later, in June 2003, by a vote of 88-1. The one vote against him was cast by:
(a) Senator Biden
(b) Senator Schumer
(c) Senator Leahy
(d) Senatrix Clinton
(e) Senator Kennedy
Answer: (d). Senatrix Clinton voted against Judge Chertoff's appointment to the Third Circuit, and she was also the lone vote against his appointment as AAG. She may still hold a grudge against Judge Chertoff based on his involvement in the Whitewater investigation. As explained here, Senatrix Clinton justified her vote against Judge Chertoff's Third Circuit nomination as "express[ing] her dissatisfaction with his treatment of young members of the White House staff who were called as witnesses when he served as chief counsel to the Senate's investigation of the Whitewater land deal."
After his DHS nomination was announced, Senatrix Clinton issued this diplomatically-worded statement: "The Secretary of Homeland Security plays a very important role in ensuring the security of New York and the nation, which is why I believe that any nomination to such a position merits careful consideration. I look forward to meeting with Judge Chertoff in the very near future to discuss many important issues...." As noted in this article, Senatrix Clinton must handle Chertoff's nomination with care: "Not only is she considering running for President and wary of taking unpopular positions, but she doesn’t want to rile the man who will control New York’s share of anti-terrorism funding, which has been a pet issue of hers."
Answers (a), (b), and (c) are incorrect; as it turns out, Judge Chertoff is on friendly terms with Senators Biden, Schumer, and Leahy.
12. Judge Chertoff's net worth is between:
(a) $500,000 and $1 million
(b) $1 million and $3 million
(c) $3 million and $5 million
(d) over $5 million
Answer: (c). Judge Chertoff has a net worth of $4,520,200. For details, click here; for even more details, in the form of Judge Chertoff's financial disclosure statement, click here (pdf, courtesy of Courting Influence -- a delectable website with a treasure trove of information about President Bush's judicial nominees).
13. What is Judge Chertoff's marital and family status?
(a) married, two children
(b) married, three children
(c) divorced, remarried, two children
(d) divorced, remarried, three children
(e) widower, remarried, one child
Answer: (c), as reported in Judge Chertoff's response to the Senate questionnaire (pdf). Concerning his divorce, Judge Chertoff's response simply states that Judge Chertoff "received a divorce on consent in Superior Court, D.C.," in 1981.
14. What is the occupation of Judge Chertoff's wife?
(a) law librarian
(b) attorney for a lobbying and public relations firm
(c) bond trader
(d) exotic dancer
Answer: (b). The high-powered Meryl Chertoff, a Harvard College and Harvard Law School graduate like her husband, is vice-president and legislative counsel for Nancy Becker Associates, a prominent public affairs firm in New Jersey. Answer (a) is true of Judge Alito, whose wife was formerly the law librarian in the U.S. Attorney's Office where he worked. As for (d), if you know of any federal judge married to an exotic dancer, please e-mail A3G immediately.
15. Which of the following quotations was NOT an actual statement made by a friend or former colleague of Judge Chertoff, following the announcement of his nomination as DHS Secretary, explaining the reasons for Judge Chertoff's career move?
(a) "Michael Chertoff is truly a patriot. When the president of the United States asks you to take an important position like this, Michael is the type of person who will say, 'Yes.'"
(b) "I think he [joined the Third Circuit] to get some experience. He would enjoy the work for a time, and then he would do something else."
(c) "I think Michael was hoping something would open up for him. Michael views life as a smorgasbord, or as a series of chapters. He enjoys a position, works hard at it, until he's gotten as much as he can out of it."
(d) "If Mike Chertoff stays on the court, he will always be 'the other white meat' of the Third Circuit -- a second choice for the Supreme Court, waiting in line behind Alito, a New Jersey conservative who has been on the bench for longer. Mike is probably thinking, 'With this job, I can develop a national reputation, leapfrogging Sam Alito and paving the way for my triumphal return to One First Street. MOO-HA-HA!!!'"
Answer: (d). All of the other quotations appear in this profile of Judge Chertoff. While there may be some truth to answer (d) -- it is certainly A3G's own take on the situation -- it is not an actual quotation by a Chertoffian associate.
16. Despite Judge Chertoff's squeaky-clean record and three prior Senate confirmations, which President Bush pointedly noted at the press conference announcing the nomination, Judge Chertoff's confirmation as DHS Secretary could possibly be derailed over:
(a) newly released documents in the John Walker Lindh case that may undermine prior congressional testimony given by Judge Chertoff
(b) alleged misuse of FBI resources during his term as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey
(c) Judge Chertoff's inexcusable and shameful refusal to participate in a "Questions Presented" interview with Article III Groupie for Underneath Their Robes (which he reads regularly and enjoys)
(d) his excessive fraternizing with young and attractive female law clerks (both his own and those of other judges)
(e) responses (a) and (b)
(f) all of the above
Answer: (e). See this article for more details about (a), and this article (by conservative commentator Robert Novak) for more details about (b). A3G will not comment on responses (c) or (d) -- which may or may not have a factual predicate -- except to say that (d), if true, may provide the answer to curious readers who ran "michael chertoff gay" searches on Google. (A3G concedes, however, that the aforementioned clerk hotties could be his hags.)
17. Judge Chertoff enjoys which of the following activities in his spare time?
(a) hiking and karate
(b) scuba diving and snowboarding
(c) running and lifting weights
(d) eating Krispy Kreme donuts
(e) bowling and squash
Answer: (c). Answer (b) is true of Judge Kozinski; keep an eye out for In Camera pictures of him scuba diving with his sons. Answer (d) might be true of Judge Reinhardt, but certainly not of the undernourished Chertoff.
18. In 2003, Judge Chertoff accepted a gift of two tickets to which of the following events?
Answer: (b). Judge Chertoff accepted two tickets to a Pavarotti concert in Trenton, New Jersey, from one Geoff Berman. For additional information, including disclosure of the other gifts received by Judge Chertoff, see his financial disclosure report (pdf). Judge Chertoff's gifts are few in number and modest in value; perhaps he needs some lessons from Justice Thomas in this department!
So, how did you do? Giving yourself one point for each correct answer, measure yourself against the following scale:
18: one of the Elect (perfect score required, natch)
16-17: feeder judge clerk
13-15: circuit court clerk
9-12: district court clerk
5-8: state court clerk
0-4: most foul of the Great Unwashed
As you can tell from the foregoing discussion, Judge Michael Chertoff is an amazingly brilliant and talented individual, even by the astronomically high standards of the federal appellate bench. And even though Judge Chertoff is a fairly private person, he can't hide the fact that he's a fun and fascinating individual "underneath his robe." A3G wishes him the best of luck in his quest for Senate confirmation!
Looking for an Anointed multimillionaire of her own,