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Bench Memos

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Judicial Picks for Obama



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Emily Bazelon and Judith Resnick have an idea for President Obama: Maximize the influence of early appellate nominations by picking “proven and experienced change-makers.”  “What’s needed right now are new circuit judges who are already expert in changing the law,” they explain.  This can best be accomplished by selectively elevating district court judges.

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.

Their recommendations?  Judges Nancy Gertner, Myron Thompson, and Mark Bennett.  This third choice is particularly interesting given Judge Bennett’s reluctance to follow the holdings of the circuit within which he sits (see here and here).



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