JIm Brown: Appointing Federal Judges a Bad Idea!

Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Last week’s column discussed the election of judges and the undue influence of campaign funds. A number of responses suggested doing away with judicial elections, and following the federal path of presidential appointment. But is the appointive process really better than electing judges? Do citizens get better choices and more competent jurists? Not the way the system works at the federal level.

First of all, presidents do not really choose federal judges outside of the Supreme Court. At the district court and court of appeals levels, the president, as a general rule, defers to the choice of the state’s U.S. senators. If the president is a democrat, the democratic senator in the home state of the proposed appointee makes the recommendation. So to qualify in most states as a federal judge, it’s not what you know but whom you know.

There are no better examples of rank political persuasions over judicial choices than right here in my home state of Louisiana. As quoted in last week’s column, Huey Long said it best: “I’m all for appointin’ judges as long as I can do the appointin.” Cronyism has been the deciding factor in a number of federal appointees to the bench.

At the court of appeals level, incompetent judges have sparked a wave of concern and criticism. Because the U. S. Supreme Court is hearing fewer cases as each year goes by, the federal court of appeals is the last vestige of hope for any effort to overturn a lower court decision. Out of more than 10,000 appeals filed last year at the nation’s highest court, only 65 were even considered. The action is at the court of appeals level. And hands down, the worst such court in the nation sits right there in New Orleans.

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4 thoughts on “JIm Brown: Appointing Federal Judges a Bad Idea!”

  1. I can’t stand Chick Foret. He makes me seeth. Just an example of his kiss-ass style was when asked about the Eastern District judges he said “they are all fair”. Most people would have said nothing and then said, “let’s go off the record and I’ll tell you what I think”. Outside of 3 or 4 judges in the Eastern District, the rest are mostly idelogues, who butcher legal issues, especially issues of State law.

    Attorneys seem to be the most hamstrung when it comes to openly commenting about anything. There should be a “Slabbed” type of site for lawyers to take disctrict court and appellate court decisions to task. What the general public does not understand is that when an appellate decision is handed down, many times the decision is written in a way that makes sense and seems right. However, many times the attorney on the losing side knows full well that arguments raised in brief were skipped or even completely ignored. Even worse, unfounded factual conclusions are drawn or made by appellate courts. I call it “results oriented” justice and results oriented justice is meted out more and more frequently these days. Instead of letting the facts and the law dictate results, judges make up their minds as to the “result” they want and then hopscotch or selectively choose facts in isolation that get them to the result.

    No wonder law school applications are at a 40 year low.

  2. Both systems suck because politics, as opposed to qualifications, place judges. There is an easy solution, but in the State of La., it requires a constitutional amendment. The qualifications to run for judge, at any level, are too featherweight. In fact, to run for the trial bench in La., the candidate only need be “admitted” to the practice of law for 7 years. That’s right, it’s not even required that the candidate “practice.” Why not require a judicial candidate to have 10 civil jury trials as lead counsel? The exception would be Orleans Criminal District Court. But the civil jury trial requirement would weed out a lot of posers. Some of these posers have stealthed their ways to both the trial bench and higher courts, because of course, once one is elected to the trial bench, actual lawyer experience is immaterial when making a run for a higher court. And from my experience, most legislators personally agree with this proposition, but each is individually afraid to propose the constitutional amendment.

    And there should be similar qualification requirement for Federal judicial selection. There are not many things scarier than an unqualified Federal judge with a bad judicial temperament. The inflexible ideologies are bad, but when that hard-ass ideology is coupled with a lack of qualifications, look the f— out!

  3. Prince Charming is spot on. Let me give an example of the ineptness of a judge based on a single evidentiary ruling. This ruling epitomizes the complete and utter crapiness of this judge.

    True Scenario:

    During discovery the defendants, pursuant to a Request for Production, produced photographs of our client’s vehicle taken by the defendant insurance company’s adjuster within a day of the accident. At trial, we went to use the picture during our client’s direct testimony. Incredibly, defense counsel objected on the basis of authenticity (keep in mind his client produced the pictures in response to a very specific RFPD). At first, I almost laughed until the trial court judge sustained the objection. At that point, I thought maybe the judge was kidding and said “Your honor they, an employee of the defendant insurer, took the picture, here is the Response to the RFPD whereby they produced the picture and others like it. How can the defendants say the pictures do not depict our client’s vehicle when they swore under oath the pictures did in fact show our client’s vehicle after the accident?”. No dice, pictures were excluded. We proffered, but who cares. We got a good result, but foillowing the trial, several jurors who wanted to award more money asked “Where were pictures of the vehicles?” I just shook my head.

    I could go on and on. Any judge with even a scintilla of trial experience would have looked at defense counsel cross-eyed. This judge not only did not look at defense counsel cross-eyed, but sustained the objection.

    Trust me, I could give at least a 100 more examples of crazy ruling by this judge and others sitting on the bench throughout Louisiana.

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