Article III Groupie recently gave Jeffrey Toobin, the brilliant legal affairs writer at the New Yorker, a peek beneath her robe. Toobin now reports that one David B. Lat, a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey, claims responsibility for this blog. (To learn more about David Lat, check out Howard Bashman's comprehensive write-up.)
A3G will now share her thoughts on Toobin's article with you. Toobin writes:
In the months since Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement, Americans have become obsessed with judge-watching. The new pastime practically eclipsed the World Series, with fans paying more attention to Harriet Miers’s eye makeup than to Jermaine Dye’s batting average. Consequently, this has been a good year for a Web site called Underneath Their Robes, which has established itself as the unofficial blog of record about the federal judiciary. There’s plenty of inside dope on the site, including comprehensive dossiers on various jurists and the identities of each new group of law clerks at the Supreme Court, but its real appeal lies in the distinctive voice of its pseudonymous author, Article III Groupie. (Article III of the Constitution established the federal judiciary.)
A3G, as she calls herself, writes like a boozy débutante, dishing about the wardrobes, work habits, and idiosyncrasies of the “superhotties of the federal judiciary” and “Bodacious Babes of the Bench.” The author is keen on the new Chief Justice, writing, on one occasion, “Judge Roberts is lookin’ super-hunky tonight, much younger than his 50 years. . . . The adorable dimple in his chin is making A3G dizzy.” In contrast, she had doubts about Harriet Miers, posting a “Hairstyle Retrospective” and noting, “If Harriet Miers wins confirmation, maybe Supreme Court justices should start wearing powdered wigs.” Her posts on the new Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, have included a report—a “judicial sight-ation” — of the Judge stopping in at a Newark pizza shop, and a sizing up of Alito’s teen-age son: “Since he’s 19, A3G is permitted to say: he’s a hottie!”
A3G has a minor clarification to add. Although it's true that Article III Groupie calls herself "A3G," it should be noted, in the interest of complete accuracy, that this moniker was bestowed upon her in the first instance by Judge Alex Kozinski, the #1 Superhottie of the Federal Judiciary.
The article continues:
The blog has many fans, including Richard Posner, the legal scholar and federal appeals-court judge in Chicago. “The beauty contests between judges can’t be taken very seriously, but I enjoy the site,” he said. “It presents good information about clerkships and candidates. It’s occasionally a little vulgar, but this is America in 2005.”
Back to the article:
In the autobiographical section of the blog, A3G says that she attended an Ivy League college and a top-five law school, clerked for a federal appellate judge, and had several interviews for clerkships on the Supreme Court—“but they ended in tragedy (i.e., with her not getting a job with the Supremes).” She goes on, “Article III Groupie then went to work for a large law firm in a major city, where she now toils in obscurity. During her free time, she consoles herself through the overconsumption of luxury goods.”
In real life, A3G is a thirty-year-old Newark-based assistant U.S. attorney named David Lat. “The blog really reflects two aspects of my personality,” he said over lunch recently. “I am very interested in serious legal issues as well as in fun and frivolous and gossipy issues. I can go from the Harvard Law Review to Us Weekly very quickly.” Lat, who has a boyish face, lives in Manhattan and commutes to New Jersey, and he writes his blog entries in his spare time. Like A3G, he graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School, and he worked briefly at a big New York law firm. Although his current job as a prosecutor has required him to pare back his life style, he says, “I still hoard toiletries from luxury hotels all over the world.” Lat interviewed for a Supreme Court clerkship, with Justice Antonin Scalia, but he didn’t get it.
A few quibbles here (despite the meticulous fact-checking of the New Yorker's Tim Farrington, who even asked Lat to confirm whether his face can be fairly characterized as "boyish"). First, it's not entirely accurate to say that "A3G is... David Lat." Lat offers this explanation, which A3G reprints herein with his permission:
It's not fair to say that I "am" A3G. With apologies for this self-aggrandizing (but helpful) comparison, one would not say that Vladimir Nabokov "was" Humbert Humbert or that J.K. Rowling "is" Harry Potter. A3G is, like Chief Justice Roberts on the Supreme Court, "h[er] own [wo]man." Like Judge Posner's cat Dinah (also featured in the New Yorker -- with a picture), A3G is fiercely independent and answers to no one. In fact, when I have something to report to A3G, I email her about it -- just like any other reader of UTR.
Thus, my persistent denials of being A3G have been, in a technical and perhaps Clintonian sense, quite correct. My opinions and those of A3G are not exactly the same. In fact, some of the people that A3G has offered snarky commentary on are people for whom I harbor admiration, affection, or both. In short, A3G does as she pleases, and I cannot be blamed or held accountable for any of her misdeeds, indiscretions, or occasional vulgarity.
Article 3 Groupie agrees with these observations from Dave Lat, and she would like to underscore that the views stated in this blog -- all on frivolous, non-substantive issues, such as judicial fashion -- represent the views of no one but herself. They do not represent the views of A3G's Biglaw employer, David Lat, or David Lat's employer.
A3G has some additional tidbits and quibbles to add. The article reports that Lat, after clerking for a federal appeals court judge (Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain (9th Cir.)), "worked briefly at a big New York law firm." For the record, Lat worked for two-and-a-half years at the fantastically high-powered firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen, & Katz. Wachtell Lipton is a famously hard-working place; as the old saying goes, "Wachtell years are like dog years." So "brief" is not a fair characterization of Lat's tenure there, which involved thousands upon thousands of billable hours.
In addition, like A3G, Lat had more than one interview for a Supreme Court clerkship. In addition to interviewing with Justice Scalia, as noted in Toobin's piece, Lat also interviewed for a clerkship with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, with the AMK screening committee (which at the time consisted of Tom Hungar and Brett Kavanaugh; the Kid from Tegucigalpa was no longer participating).
And now, the conclusion of the article:
“Yale treats certain judges like celebrities,” [Lat] said. “And I’ve always had a certain status anxiety about not having clerked on the Supreme Court.” (A3G often refers to Supreme Court clerks as “the Elect.”) “My interest in celebrity has kind of metastasized from the judges to the clerks,” he added.
Lat is proud that some of his catchphrases have slipped into wider circulation—“litigatrix,” “judicial diva,” and “bench-slap” (for disputes among judges). Although he intended to remain anonymous, the success of the blog made coming clean irresistible. “I felt frustrated that I was putting a lot of time into this and was unable to get any credit for it,” Lat said. “But eventually these things have a way of coming out anyway. I only hope that the judges I appear in front of don’t read it.”
A3G's final comments: (1) once again, the views expressed in this blog are exclusively those of A3G, and no one else; and (2) Dave Lat is a very interesting individual, and he has asked A3G to mention that he would be happy to entertain further media inquiries. Lat would be delighted to write op-eds on issues concerning the federal judiciary, to offer radio or television commentary on the same, to cater your next special event, and to entertain at children's birthday parties. (You may contact him by emailing A3G, who will make sure that he gets your message.) Thanks for reading!