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January 23, 2009

Circuit Judge Troy Bolton Wilkinson urges an HSM approach to judicial appointments

200px-HighschoolmusicalCD The entire Obama family, as detailed here and here, is obviously quite familiar with Disney Channel productions and surely knows well (perhaps even too well) all the musical stylings of Troy and Gabriella and all the East High Wildcats of High School Musical fame.  Thus, I cannot help but speculate that Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III was somehow hoping to tap into the HSM vibe when he put together this op-ed concerning judicial appointments that appears today in the Washington Post

Specially, the entire Wilkinson op-ed reads like an effort to try to encourage President Obama not to be too ideologically cliquey when making his judicial picks.  (An anti-clique message is, of course, at the heart of the whole HSM message).  And, as the excerpts below reveal, the closing line of the Wilkinson op-ed has now ensured that I will have the closing number of HSM I stuck in my head all afternoon.

Congress put federal circuit judges on panels of three for a reason -- namely, so that we could listen as well as talk, give as well as take and make the accommodations (more narrow rulings, less strident opinions) without which appellate courts cannot function.  The 4th Circuit has never prided itself on ideology but on the collegiality that takes minds out of concrete and prevents personal animosities from clouding and distorting the essential act of judgment....

To be sure, there will be change and disagreement on the 4th Circuit, but I pray that coming appointments to our court will not cause the doors of communication and compromise to slam shut.  A polarized 4th Circuit would bring no discernible public benefit.  At the end of the day, it's not lines of battle; it's not us and them.  Americans are in this together, and that includes the courts.

Sing it with me all you East High Wildcats on the federal judiciary:

Together, together, together every judge
Together, together, come on lets have some fun
Together, no lines of battle or getting uptight
Together, together, come on lets do this right

Here and now its time for judge appointments
I finally figured it out (yeah yeah)
That all our rights have no limitations
That's what its all about

Every judge is special in their own way
We make each other strong (each other strong)
Were not the same
Were different in a good way
Together's where we belong

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January 23, 2009 at 01:13 PM | Permalink


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Well, the notion that there should be no cliques just is a clique. But anyway, where was this judge during the Bush administration? The notion that Roberts and Alito in particular don't represent a clique is just bizarre. The appointments of the Bush administration just were clique-ie appointments. Indeed, it's quite remarkable that the op-ed never mentions the worst clique in the Judiciary--that of ex-prosecutors.

While it is entirely true that as President Obama now has the responsibility to whole country and not just he Democratic party, it is also true that that party was the one whose energy and money got him elected. That certainly earns them a right to priority, just as it did for Republicans under Bush. To insist otherwise is just surreal.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 23, 2009 6:37:40 PM

So, let me get this straight... to avoid discord and arguments between the judges, Obama should just appoint conservatives to the 4th Circuit so as to mesh with the conservative clique already there (they were there first, after all).

That's Blago-crazy.

Posted by: BruceM | Jan 24, 2009 5:30:14 AM

That was quite the silly piece. This guy is a clown. If he had been urging this during the Bush administration I might have taken him seriously. But, he didn't.

I now consider anyone that clerked for him to be of lesser intelligence and not law firm material.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jan 24, 2009 7:19:09 AM

Bruce M, I take it, is not in the 4th & so lacks any perspective on this. J. Harvie is a charming gentleman, intelligent, cultured, conservative, & his clerks are just as able as most circuit court clerks; however, hello, folks, this has been a conservative "southern" circuit for decades (both WV judges, King & Michael, being notable exceptions). The 4th lost brain trust Luttig when he didn't get SCOTUS and went corporate. J. Harvie Wilkinson was also considered a possible SCOTUS appointee at the same time. Instead, we got Roberts & Alito. (Surely no one will claim that those who clerked for Luttig, Roberts, Alito are not law firm material - lol.) Now 4 seats are open on the 4th and, if you noticed just Day One of the Obama administration, Obama shredded many torture-and-related-incarceration precedents, which hints at the types of circuit judges he might propose. To JHW that's an OMG moment, but all he can think of is an old WV country ploy when cornered: "Can't we all just go along to get along?" Kumbaya anyone?

WV federal criminal defense attorney & big blog fan. Deirdre Purdy

Posted by: WV atty | Jan 24, 2009 1:37:51 PM

"To JHW that's an OMG moment"

why does he even care? just because the president has (or may have *ahem*) the authority to do something, doesn't mean he has to. i thought judges were supposed to interpret the law ...

Posted by: | Jan 24, 2009 8:23:53 PM

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