In emails to Article III Groupie and in comments to recent posts, several of you have expressed a desire for better coverage in these pages of federal judges who are not conservatives of mono-monikered fame (e.g., Scalia, Kozinski, Posner, Easterbrook, etc.). As it turns out, A3G recognizes the validity of this criticism, and she's happy to oblige. Going forward, she will make a conscious effort to expand the universe of judges that she covers.*
A3G will kick things off by reprinting some praise of Judge Edmund H. Sargus, Jr., a 1996 Clinton appointee to the Southern District of Ohio. This email comes from a celebrated trial lawyer and loyal UTR reader:
Just noticed in your old "hottie" list Judge Edmund Sargus (S.D. Ohio). Now there is somebody who ought to be on the court of appeals, at the very least. He is personable, affable, smart, and well-read; he listens to lawyers, and he knows how to run a contentious courtroom while making sure everybody gets heard. I was counsel in a big dollar/big ego class action last year, and came away with enormous respect for him.
Catch that rave -- Judge Sargus, pat yourself on the back for doing such a fine job on the bench!
And here are some very nice words about another district court judge and Democratic appointee,** Judge Myron H. Thompson of the Middle District of Alabama (who is, by the way, a former boss of current Stevens clerk Dan Lenerz):
Judge Myron Thompson (M.D. Ala.) is a great judge who was appointed by President Carter in 1980. Judge Thompson was only 33 at the time, and he became the first African-American judge in that district. He has handled a number of very notable cases, including the historic Wyatt case challenging the inhumane treatment of individuals held in Alabama's Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, which has had a tremendous impact on the treatment of people with mental illness in the United States.
Judge Thompson also decided Glassroth v. Moore, the Alabama "10 Commandments case." His decision in that case, ordering Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove the 10 Commandments monument from the Alabama State Judicial Building, earned him a huge amount of harsh criticism from the religious right, even though it was upheld more than once by the 11th Circuit.
WOW -- a federal judge by the age of 33? If it's possible, A3G feels even worse about herself than she did when she woke up this morning!
But before you conclude that life is a bowl of cherries for Judge Thompson, consider the following anecdote from this article about his visit last year to Yale, his alma mater (for both college and law school):
Only a year after he began serving on the bench, Thompson made a difficult ruling concerning the use of deadly force by the police. After a friend critiqued his decision as arbitrary, Thompson said he questioned whether he was making or interpreting law.
"After seeing the [appellate] panel of judges that was set to rule on the case, one of the older judges said to me, 'I saw the panel; get ready to be reversed.' At the time I was really upset. People think that because we are selected for life that we don't have feelings," Thompson said.
Gee, that's kinda true! It's something A3G should keep in mind when blogging about Article III celebrities. Just because federal judges have flowing robes and big gavels doesn't mean they don't get hurt when people say mean things about them.
Judge Thompson's story, however, has a happy ending:
Thompson was vindicated in the end when the case went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which used Thompson's language verbatim in its ruling. Thompson said he is humbled by the influence he has.
Awesome -- keep on truckin', Judge Thompson!
And now, a few words of "meta-blogging." In the pages of UTR, A3G devotes most of her attention to Supreme Court justices and a handful of glamorous circuit judges. But there's no denying that district court judges have much harder jobs than their appellate court counterparts. Their dockets are much larger; they face greater time pressures; and they have fewer resources than their colleagues upstairs.
Despite these obstacles, and with the help of their trusty law clerks, trial judges in the federal system do a superb job dispensing justice to the people of the United States. The excellent work that district judges perform, day in and day out, makes the American federal judiciary the great institution that it is today -- the envy of the entire free world.
A special message to all district court judges: even if she doesn't blog about you as often as circuit judges and SCOTUS justices, A3G still loves you very very much. YOU RULE!!!
* It's worth noting that this criticism of UTR is not a new one. Check out this post, from almost exactly a year ago, in which A3G reprinted this reader email:
You tend to write about the same small group of judges over, and over, and over. How about casting your net a bit wider? There are so many judges about whom I'd like to learn. Mad props otherwise, Devoted Fan
And here is part of what A3G wrote in her own defense:
As noted in UTR's mission statement, Underneath Their Robes is like People or US Weekly, but for the federal judiciary. Would anyone ever write in to People or US Weekly to complain that they spend too much time on the likes of Julia and Jude, and not enough time on Wallace Shawn and Lupe Ontiveros? With all due respect to Mr. Shawn and Ms. Ontiveros, both of whom A3G deeply admires as actors, clearly the answer is no.
As explained above, A3G will attempt to broaden her coverage in the weeks ahead. But please don't be surprised if she eventually reverts to her old ways after a few weeks (or hours).
** See? A3G is capable of blogging about judges who are neither Republican appointees nor circuit/Supreme Court judges. Please, dear readers -- give your blogress a round of applause!