June 22, 2007
Difficult Federal Judges
The description of Judge Reggie Walton comments in the court room during the trial of Scooter Libby were not flattering. Multiple times he made comments from the bench that are more correctly described as speeches; several of the comments were petulant. His conduct reminds me of the Judge in the KPMG tax case. A lack of judicial humility on the bench is not new but it seems to be growing in frequency, particularly in the newsworthy cases. New data on the selection of federal judges illustrates a selection bias against main-line practicing attorneys and in favor of academics, public officials, and those who practice public law. Are the two related? Judges with a cause would seem to be more likely to be peevish to those with whom they disagree.
[New post] In response to Judge Chidester's comment, I should note I agree with the potential unfairness of press accounts of judge's actions but occasionally judges do deserve a barb or two, especially when based on the judge's own language in an opinion or in open court that smacks of a loss of judicial temperament. Here Judge Walton was very, very preachy in open court, suggesting he was riding his own horse in this notable case. You have to be a judge to judge a judge?? Hardly.
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As a trial court judge and instructor of business law at Purdue University, I must express my disagreement with your blog theory. Until you have sat as a presiding judge on a case, or any case, you do not understand the pressures, the evidentiary rulings which require to be made, the media demands, petulant and unprepared lawyers, etc. I have known Judge Walton and have taught with him at the National Judicial College in Reno Nevada. He is a great judge and teacher. Walk in his or our shoes for 1 day and you might sing a different tune.
Judge D. Chidester
Posted by: D. Chidester | Jul 5, 2007 6:27:20 PM