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December 20, 2008

Urging President-elect Obama to elevate district judges to the circuit courts

Emily Bazelon and Judith Resnik have this effective piece at Slate making a pitch for the elevation of district judges to circuit courts.  The essay is titled, "Sitting on Great Judges: Where Obama should look when he makes his first appointments to the bench," and here are snippets: 

Next summer, Barack Obama may get to make a Supreme Court appointment. But before then, he'll give us a preview by filling 13 vacant slots on the federal appeals courts....

Obama should look to sitting district court judges who have shown their dedication to opening up the courts as an avenue for redress. If they go up to the appeals courts, these judges will have more impact more quickly than the lawyers or academics lining up for appointments. District court judges know the ins and outs of their particular circuit's legal rules, and they understand how to fashion standards that trial judges can use. They also know the personalities of the circuit judges they'd be serving with, which helps for effectively negotiating on the standard appellate panel of three....

Examples from different parts of the country help to make the point.... Moving toward the middle of the country, another standout judge is Mark Bennett, appointed by Bill Clinton to Iowa's federal trial court....  Our third standout district court judge (who is also a friend and a former Slate blogger) is Nancy Gertner, a Clinton appointee from Massachusetts. She is an expert on the law of sentencing, pioneering the view that judges should interpret, rather than slavishly apply, the federal sentencing guidelines.

Regular readers know that Judge Bennett has also been a sentencing superstar along with Judge Gernter.  Indeed, I think it is a great idea for the next administration to look to making a lot of early circuit appointments from the district bench.  Of course, I would like to see at the top of any elevation list those district judges who have thoughtfully explored in opinions and articles the meaning and impact of Bookerand its progeny — a which includes not just Judges Bennett and Gertner, but also Judges Adelman and Bataillon and Block and Carr and Friedman andGleeson and Gwin and Hayden and Kopf and Lynch and Marbley and Merryday and Polster and Pratt and Presnell and Young and many more.

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December 20, 2008 at 09:29 AM | Permalink

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