From November 11 to November 13, 2004,* the Federalist Society held its National Lawyers Convention in Washington, D.C. Numerous superstars of the vast right-wing conspiracy, including many fabulous federal jurists, descended upon the Mayflower Hotel, turning it into the federal judicial equivalent of the Oscars night red carpet.
So who can report on the more frivolous aspects of the Convention? Enquiring minds want to know: Which judges were looking hot, and which ones were looking -- not? Who was the Best-Dressed Judicial Spouse? And what about the Most Delicious Diva? Sounds like a job for yours truly, a.k.a. "the Joan Rivers of the federal judiciary," and Robing Room Report! (For additional information about robing rooms, including guidance concerning what a judge can and can't do in her robing room, check out this recent opinion from the Second Circuit (link via How Appealing).)
Now, A3G has so much to say about the Convention, so this edition of "Robing Room Report" will take the form of a two-part series. Today's installment (Part 1) will cover non-judicial attendees, who are still Important, as individuals closely connected to the federal judiciary (e.g., members of the Elect, former law clerks, judicial spouses or children, etc.). The next installment will discuss the Convention's brightest stars: the federal judicial deities who descended from Olympus to grace everyone with their presence. A3G believes in saving the best for last!
A long time has passed since the Convention, so let's get down to business. Instead of bothering to repeat them all here, A3G incorporates by reference the caveats, qualifications, and disclaimers set forth in the first edition of "Robing Room Report." If anything, the standard warnings apply even more strongly. As she has previously mentioned, because A3G did not attend this year's Federalist Fiesta, she was forced to rely entirely upon intelligence from field correspondents in preparing this report. She thanks them for their many missives, and she apologizes for her quasi-plagiarism, in the form of her quoting UTR correspondents without citing them by name -- which she does pursuant to UTR's standard e-mail policy, designed to protect contributors from federal judicial retribution.
And now, on to the awards, which will be presented in no particular order. In the spirit of the Oscars, for which nominations will be announced later today, A3G asks: "The envelope, please."
Least Loathsome Untouchable: Christopher A. Wray
This prize, bestowed upon the hottest member of the Great Unwashed, goes to Chris Wray, a participant in an "interesting," "spirited" panel discussion on the PATRIOT Act. Wray has done pretty well for himself professionally, despite being the only Luttigator not among the Elect. Overcoming this disability, he has risen to the post of Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice's Criminal Division (sizable shoes previously filled by one of the Anointed, Judge Michael Chertoff, recently profiled in UTR).
Wray wins the prize for Least Loathsome Untouchable, however, based not on his professional achievement, nor on the fact that "all the top D.C. firms have a [crude word omitted] for him" (as noted in this article). Rather, he wins for a far more meritocratic reason: he is "incredibly good-looking"! As one UTR reader gushed, Wray is "hunk-o-licious." He combines "the irresistible, boyish good looks of Nick Lachey with the handsome, rugged manliness of Campbell Scott." And his "genteel Southern accent" is "simply to die for!"
Runner-up: R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division. Like Wray, Acosta never made it to One First Street, despite clerking for a prominent conservative jurist (Judge Alito of the Third Circuit). Acosta loses out to Wray, however, not because Judge Luttig feeds more than Judge Alito, but because Acosta -- despite being "slender and appealing" -- is "merely cute." In contrast, Wray is "a hunk of burnin' love" and "a drool-inducing stud!"
If you have doubts on this score, consider the following comment from another UTR reader (which gives new meaning to the term mens rea): "[Wray] used to be a federal prosecutor in Atlanta. If he were an AUSA in my district, I'd commit a federal crime just so he could prosecute me!"
Sorry, dear readers: Wray is married with two children, as reported in the alumni bulletin of Andover, the elite prep school from which he graduated. And Alex Acosta, while not married, is also believed to be taken by a lucky young lady.
Most Adorable of the Anointed: Professor Eugene Volokh
Professor Volokh (SOC, OT 1993), the "baby-faced celebrity blogger" at the hub of the Volokh Conspiracy, "cut a fine figure" at the Convention. As a participant in a panel on free speech and election law, Professor Volokh was looking "absolutely adorable"! He was wearing a "lovely blue suit, blue striped shirt, and gorgeous red tie with distinctive blue-and-gold print (probably Zegna, maybe Robert Talbott)." He was "much better dressed than his former boss" (whose attire will be discussed -- and, A3G regrets to report, criticized -- in Part II of this report).
A digression: If you'd like to see more of Professor Volokh and the super-hot Judge Alex Kozinski, so you can form your own judgments about their appearance, check out this video clip. It's a fascinating segment from The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer dedicated to the Ninth Circuit split. Interviewees include Professor Volokh, sounding endearingly earnest; Judge Kozinski, wearing an elegant dark suit; Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, harshly dismissing one argument against a circuit split as "nonsense"; and Queen Mary, er, Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, looking regal and above the fray. It's a real treat for all you Ninth Circuit groupies out there.
Runner-up: Professor Viet Dinh (SOC, OT 1994), who is now back at Georgetown Law, after a stint heading up the DOJ's Office of Legal Policy (OLP), takes second place behind Professor Volokh (his predecessor in SOC's chambers). At the PATRIOT Act panel, Professor Dinh delivered "impressive and highly substantive" remarks, "sans notes." (His delivery, however, could use some improvement: he spoke "too quickly," making him "sound vaguely like Elmer Fudd.") Professor Dinh is "so cute, you just want to take him home with you!"
(Get your minds out of the gutter, people! Clearly this correspondent wants to take home Professor Dinh -- who came to this country at age 10, as a refugee fleeing war-torn Vietnam, in an "amazing and awe-inspiring turn of events" -- so he can be taken care of, nurtured, and protected. If you have any doubt on this score, check out the picture (above right) of the "cuddly" Professor Dinh, which reveals his "sweet, boyishly vulnerable appearance.")
Most Entertaining of the Elect: Professor John Choon Yoo
The Elect aren't just cute, like Professors Volokh and Dinh; they can also be very funny. As a participant in a panel entitled "The Use of Foreign Legal Materials in American Constitutional Interpretation," Professor Yoo of Boalt Hall was "hilarious." He delivered "delightfully disparaging remarks" about "those crazy Europeans," basically along the lines of how "we've had to go over there and save their lazy a**es time and time again."
Professor Yoo is an "unbelievably brilliant" academic with a "remarkably large head" (in a literal sense; see above left). Not too long ago, he was a "red-hot star in the conservative legal firmament" with "impeccable credentials," including clerkships with Judge Silberman, whose acolytes now fill the corridors of executive power, and Justice Thomas (whom Yoo does not support for Chief Justice, interestingly enough).
From 2001 to 2003, while on leave from Boalt Hall, Professor Yoo served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Known as "the brain trust of the executive branch," OLC is "staggeringly prestigious." Former OLC heads include Chief Justice Rehnquist (1969-71), who was appointed directly to the Supreme Court from OLC, and Justice Scalia (1974-77), who has reportedly launched a charm offensive in an effort to become the next Chief.
A digression: Speaking of the Chief, A3G was glad to see that he successfully administered the oath of office to President Bush. But WHR is not looking well these days, as described in almost painful detail in this recent sight-ation (link via Nomination Nation ).**
A further digression: The OLC shall henceforth be referred to in these pages as "Finishing School for the Elect." If you don't land a Supreme Court clerkship that immediately follows your feeder judge clerkship, cool your heels at the OLC, then reapply to the Court. Success is practically guaranteed! Current denizens of One First Street who passed through Finishing School en route to immortality include Curtis Gannon (E. Jones, AS) and Jennifer Koester (Garza, CT). And OT 2005 will witness the apotheosis of at least two more OLC alums, James Ho (J. Smith, CT) and John Demers (O'Scannlain, AS).
But before you rush off to the post office to mail in your application materials -- yes, the Finishing School is interviewing right now -- ask yourself: "Do I really want to write opinions on topics such as 'whether funding for technical assistance for the agricultural conservation programs listed in amended section 1241(a) of the Food Security Act of 1985 is subject to the section 11 cap on transfer of Commodity Credit Corporation funds'?"***
My goodness, sorry for the multiple digressions! Back to the good professor. Alas, an OLC stint has not helped Professor Yoo's career; to the contrary, it has caused it to crash and burn. Thanks to his unfortunate authorship of a controversial OLC memo (pdf) that critics condemned as "soft on torture" -- which caused him to be the subject of student protests at Berkeley, and which the OLC subsequently repudiated -- he is widely viewed as "radioactive" (or, as colorfully expressed by one correspondent, "non-confirmable to the post of Barney-groomer").****
UTR sources therefore offer the following armchair psychology about John Yoo: the fact that he's "out of running for pretty much any prominent [government] position" -- and "saying prayers of gratitude for academic tenure" -- explains why Yoo is such a "loose cannon" these days. Since Yoo "no longer needs to worry about ruining his chances" for a high-profile judicial or executive branch appointment, he "is now free to tell us how he really feels about things!"
Runner-up: Professor Richard A. Epstein. Professor Epstein, "that wacky genius," was "extremely entertaining" at the Convention. While sitting on a panel about Brown v. Board of Education and affirmative action, Professor Epstein "traded highly amusing bench-slaps" with his fellow panelist, Judge Guido Calabresi (2d Cir.). An attendee offers this eyewitness account:
It was the legal academy's answer to those "rap battles" from 8 Mile, in which the rappers tried to outdo other with increasingly creative disses and put-downs. Very funny stuff from both men. Calabresi kept addressing Epstein as "Richie," in this very dismissive tone, as if to say, "Richie, while I was clerking for Justice Black, you were a pimply-faced 15-year-old [vulgarism omitted] while sniffing your mother's underwear."
But Epstein gave as good as he got. At one point, in mockery of Calabresi's sloppy, loosey-goosey approach to interpreting the Constitution, Epstein exclaimed, "Guido, you can't spout poetry and call it constitutional analysis!" Later on, in response to Guido's citation of playwright George Bernard Shaw in one of his rambles, Epstein sniffed, "Guido, you can't beat the constitutional text with a quote from Man and Superman."
Best-Dressed Judicial Spouse: Maura O'Scannlain
Gisele, Natalia, Karolina -- get off the runway, girls! Make way for some real women, whose strappy sandals you are not worthy to untie. Spotted sashaying through the Mayflower as if they were strutting down the catwalks of Milan were several resplendent judicial consorts, including Judy Boggs, the wife of Judge Danny J. Boggs (6th Cir.), and Maureen Scalia, the estimable spouse of the Rock Star of One First Street (i.e., "the Bianca Jagger of One First Street").
Yes, competition in this category was fierce. But the tiara for Best-Dressed Judicial Spouse goes to Maura O'Scannlain, the wife of Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain (9th Cir.). On one day of the conference, Mrs. O'Scannlain was spotted in "a beautifully finished houndstooth jacket." Another day saw her clad in "a fabulous pantsuit, in Katherine Harris red, with a paisley blouse and perfectly matched red overcoat." Indeed, "just like her husband's judicial philosophy," Mrs. O'Scannlain's personal style is "conservative, elegant, and distinctive." (And as you can see from the NewsHour video clip, her husband isn't a bad dresser either -- even if it wouldn't hurt him to be less conservative.)
Maura O'Scannlain's only fashion misstep: "drab, overly sensible black shoes." Given her outfit, perhaps she should have gone with a pair of "bright red high heels," like those worn by Judge Loretta A. Preska (S.D.N.Y.)...
Non-Article III "It" Judge: Judge Mark V. Holmes
Yes, A3G realizes that you may be tired of hearing about Judge Holmes, who has been the subject of extensive prior coverage in these pages -- even though he is a mere Tax Court judge, not an Article III deity. (The lavish coverage of Judge Holmes is due in large part to the fact that he clerked for The Easy Rider, A3G's all-time favorite judge.)
Judge Holmes deserves a prize, however, for talking up UTR at the Convention. A reader offers this report: "Long time reader, first time spy here. I thought you might like to know that the topic of your site came up when Professor Volokh [also a former Kozinski clerk] and Judge Holmes talked about Jeopardy! Judge Holmes apparently won $17,000 his one day as champion. Professor Volokh lamented that his younger brother Sasha was unable to buzz in quickly enough and lost on his appearance."
A digression: Although he may not be a Jeopardy! champ, Alexander "Sasha" Volokh, yet another Kozinski clerk, is one of the Elect, a future clerk to Justice O'Connor. The rather cute Sasha (see left) was hired last summer by SOC -- without an interview. "How do you like them apples?"
Notwithstanding his genius, Sasha's clumsiness with the buzzer suggests a troubling lack of manual dexterity. A3G can't help but wonder: "The members of the Elect are all unquestionably brilliant, able to find answers to the thorniest legal questions. But how many of them can find this?" (Warning: Do not click through the immediately preceding link if you're in the office!)
Back to Judge Holmes, our Non-Article III "It" Judge. A3G will share with you one last amusing anecdote about him, and then she will desist from mentioning him for a while. Reader Bill MacDonald, identified by name with his permission, offers this story:
I'm afraid you don't do Judge Mark Holmes enough justice. Not only did he compete on Jeopardy!, he also made a verbal appearance on the very first run of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, back in August of 1999. Knowing of Mark's Jeopardy! prowess, I had asked him to serve as a Phone-a-Friend for me when I was chosen to appear in the second week of the show. When I got to the $250,000 question -- "In Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, which of the following instruments traditionally portrays the wolf?" -- Mark replied that he thought it was the French horn.
I wanted him to be a little more specific, so I asked him how sure he was, percentage-wise, and he replied "60%" -- thus making him the first Phone-a-Friend ever to express his certainty in percentage terms, a tradition carried on to this very day. And, of course, Mark was right. If only I had listened to him!
Let this be a lesson to all of us: When a federal judge speaks, we must obey! Ignore a federal judge at your peril...
Non-Judicial "It" Boy: Alberto R. Gonzales
Al Gonzales competes -- and prevails -- in this category, for the most buzz-generating of the non-judicial celebrities at the Convention. (Although he still likes to be addressed as "Judge," Gonzales is no longer a judge -- and he won't be, unless and until he makes it to One First Street.) Gonzales attended the Society's "swanky annual dinner" on Thursday night, where his appearance "caused a great stir throughout the ballroom." As he "diligently worked the room," he was followed by "indiscreet whispering and stares"; he was "definitely the center of attention for the evening."
Runner-up: Senator William Frist, M.D., keynote speaker at the annual dinner. Senator Frist (R-TN) spoke on a topic near and dear to A3G's heart: the filibustering of judicial nominees. The text of his remarks is available here (pdf); for additional commentary from people who were there, see, e.g., here, here, and here.
As current Senator Majority Leader and possible future POTUS, Bill Frist is obviously a super-boldface name. But Gonzales produced greater buzz at the Convention than Dr. Frist, because (1) his appearance was "a surprise to many" (unlike Frist's, which was previously announced); and (2) the Convention took place just one day after the President's announcement, on November 10, of Gonzales's nomination as Attorney General. As a result, "[w]herever he went, [Gonzales] was treated like a rock star!"
Most Delicious Diva: Jennifer Cabranes Braceras
A noted lawyer, freelance writer, and member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the "saucy" Braceras was the Convention's Most Delicious Diva. Despite being the daughter of Second Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes, a prominent judicial Democrat, Braceras is an "outspoken conservative" who has publicly professed her "dislike of Al Gore" -- even though her father was near the top of Gore's Supreme Court short-list. (In terms of her own One First Street picks, she supports the kid from Tegucigalpa.) Braceras clerked for a leading conservative jurist, Judge Ralph K. Winter, Jr., one of her father's Second Circuit colleagues.
Braceras was in "top form" at the conference. A reader described Braceras as "a strikingly handsome woman -- think Frida Kahlo without the unibrow." Braceras boasted "an incredible mane of thick, dark, lustrous hair, held back by expensive-looking sunglasses perched on top of her head." Throughout her remarks, "she would flip the aforementioned mane over her left shoulder, in dramatic fashion." Wearing "a red blouse of artfully crumpled fabric," she held forth before a standing-room-only crowd at the panel "Brown and Racial Preferences," which she "thrilled" with her "strong and eloquent" opposition to racial preferences (including her "blunt dismissal of diversity as 'a crock'").
In sum, Braceras "is a magnificent, fiery Latina conservative. She'd be a great addition to the federal bench (assuming she'd be interested in a judicial position). Someone give her a black robe!"
Runner-up: Abigail Thernstrom, Braceras's colleague on the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights. The "ever-feisty" Thernstrom had some choice words for public school math teachers (many of them members of the reviled NEA, no doubt): "They don't know math! They see a fraction and think it's some sort of hieroglyphic!"
Prom King and Queen: Rachel Brand and Jonathan F. Cohn
The "Prom King and Queen" award goes to the Convention's most high-powered "celebrity couple" -- i.e., members of the Elect who are married to or dating one another. Due to the high number of such couples who were present, the category was hotly contested.
After all, the Engels were in the house. So were the "unbelievably well-connected" Jim Ho (CT, OT 2005), a "Federalist Society heavyweight," and his "exceedingly charming" wife, Allyson Newton Ho (SOC, OT 2002). They were joined by the "manifestly brilliant" Nick Rosenkranz (AMK, OT 2001), a "rock star of legal academia" who published an article in the Harvard Law Review while still a law clerk, accompanied by the "literally breathtaking" Tali Farhadian (SOC, OT 2004). The "exotically beautiful" Farhadian was described by one reader as "a Rhodes Scholar and Supreme Court clerk whose looks can -- and regularly do -- stop traffic." (The picture at left "fails to do justice" to Farhadian, who "in real life resembles Padma Lakshmi," the insanely gorgeous model-actress married to Salman Rushdie.)
Is it possible to prevail against such heady competition? Well, yes -- if you happen to be Rachel Brand (AMK, OT 2002) and Jon Cohn (CT, OT 2000), this year's Prom King and Queen. Brand and Cohn are "an attractive and overachieving couple, if ever there was one," and "they are at the epicenter of conservative legal circles."
At the tender age of 31, the "turbo-charged" Brand has already risen to the high post of Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of OLP. She "knows how to work a room like no one else," and she is "incredibly blessed with abundant brains and beauty." As one UTR reader asks, presumably rhetorically, "How many DAAGs do you know with flawless skin? If the 'law' thing doesn't work out for Rachel -- in other words, if she's not a circuit judge by age 35 -- she can go be the next Noxzema girl!"
The "high-powered" Cohn, who is only 32, oversees immigration litigation around the country, as head of the DOJ's Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL). He is "the intellectual equal of Rachel -- and that's saying something!" He is also "quite cute," even if "not as stunningly good-looking as his wife."
WOW! So there you have it: Part 1 of the Robing Room Report on the 2004 Federalist Fiesta. Article III Groupie has to sit down -- her head is spinning from the intense red carpet action! (It is thus quite fitting that someone recently accessed UTR by running a Google search for Pictures of people fainting from seeing celebrities.)
A3G hopes you enjoyed this admittedly long-winded account of the star-studded proceedings. She promises you the second and final installment of her Convention dispatch, focused on the federal judges in attendance, in the "not-too-distant future" (whatever that means)...
Planning to attend Federalistapalooza 2005 (so don't seat her in Siberia at the dinner!),
* Yes, Article III Groupie realizes that the subject of this post is "so last year" -- literally as well as figuratively. Most of the time A3G is grateful for the freedom she enjoys as a blogress, including freedom from editorial interference and artificial deadlines. But freedom can be dangerous for the undisciplined, with dilatory posts like this one as the result...
** Yes, the Chief showed up to the Inauguration in his super-stylish robe with the gold bars. But he was without the handsome headgear sported by some of his colleagues: the famed Supreme Court skullcaps! Click here, for a picture of "The Doge of One First Street," a.k.a. Justice Scalia in his skullcap. The Men Without Hats in the photo are Justices Souter, Thomas, and Stevens; Justice Ginsburg, thanks to her unfortunately oversized sunglasses, resembles a large insect. (As always, thanks to How Appealing for these and many other excellent links.)
*** No, that isn't a parody, frighteningly enough; it's the actual subject of a real-life OLC memo.
**** The "Memogate" scandal also tarnished the reputation of Judge Jay S. Bybee, the AAG of OLC at the time the memo was issued. (Indeed, some to refer to the memo as "the Bybee memo."). But Judge Bybee had his lifetime appointment to the Ninth Circuit firmly in hand by the time "Memogate" erupted. Indeed, because Judge Bybee was already safely ensconced on an Article III court, some have argued that the White House shrewdly "hung him out to dry" -- they made him into the fall guy for the whole scandal, knowing full well that no unfortunate consequences could befall him.