Just days after retiring from his seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Richard Posner released his latest book, the awkwardly titled Reforming the Federal Judiciary: My Former Court Needs to Overhaul Its Staff Attorney Program and Begin Televising Its Oral Arguments. The book is self-published, and apparently contains a significant number of internal memos from within the court.
The reviews are not good:
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The difficult and tragic hurricane season, which closed Texas’s federal and state courthouses last month, has now done the same to the courthouses in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. (A courthouse in Florida remains closed in the wake of Hurricane Irma as well.) In light of the terrible destruction on those islands, the closing of a courthouse by itself is bottom-page news. But in times of crisis, courthouses are needed — both practically and symbolically — to assure citizens that the rule of law remains in place. Here’s hoping that the residents of all affected areas find strength, rebuild, and restore their communities.
United States District Judge John Adams, of the Northern District of Ohio, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council. The suit stems from the Sixth Circuit Judicial Council’s insistence that Adams undergo a mental evaluation last month after he exhibited increasingly erratic behavior on the bench.
Judge Adams argues that the order to undergo the evaluation, which is rooted in the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, is an unconstitutional violation of his liberty interest.
Most attention paid to this case will focus on Judge Adams’s own behavior on and off the bench, as well as larger questions regarding the independence of a life-tenured judiciary. But an equally interesting dimension will be the personal stake of the federal judge hearing the case. That judge will be asked to determine the constitutionality of a statute that covers his own employment, and the breadth of the power of the Judicial Conference that oversees his work. How the ultimate decision is couched, and how much of the judge’s thought process is revealed, will be interesting to follow.
At Above the Law, David Lat has a terrific, wide-ranging interview with Judge Richard Posner, who abruptly retired from the Seventh Circuit bench two weeks ago. He discusses a number of interesting topics, from pro se litigants to cameras in the courtroom to bagging groceries.
The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday advanced the nominations of four individuals for the federal bench. They are Ralph Erickson (8th Circuit), Donald Coggins Jr (D.S.C.), Dabney Friedreich (D.D.C.), and Steven Schwartz (Court of Federal Claims). Only Mr. Schwartz proved to be a controversial vote; he was passed 11-9.
President Trump has announced a new wave of federal judicial nominees, mostly to vacant positions on the Circuit Courts of Appeal. Notably, they include Gregory Katsas, the current deputy White House Counsel, who was nominated for a seat on the D.C. Circuit.
The United States District Court for the District of Vermont will close its Brattleboro courthouse at the end of this month, with the retirement of Senior Judge Garvan Murtha. Judge Murtha was the only federal judge sitting in Brattleboro.
This is another example of the courts trying to balance cost and efficiency with access to justice. It is probably not a catastrophe for a single courthouse to close and district business to consolidate, especially in a geographically small state like Vermont. But it does say something to smaller communities about their relevance in the eyes of the justice system when an existing courthouse closes.