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Tuesday, August 29, 2006 

Chief Judge Easterbrook

Speaking of the Seventh Circuit, we are getting a new chief judge, Frank Easterbrook. Lynne Marek has the story on Law.com. For those of you who aren't familiar with Judge Easterbrook, this is a nice snapshot of his personality...
Judge Frank H. Easterbrook has long told his law students, only half in jest he says, that he wishes he had a button on his courtroom bench that he could push to open a trapdoor beneath the feet of attorneys not properly prepared for court, sending them sliding down a chute to the street outside.
Aside from giving the Monty Burns treatment to bad lawyers, Judge Easterbrook is also a leading antitrust law scholar and has been on the court for over 21 years. He's a tough questioner at oral argument and a protege of Robert Bork. All pluses in my book.

The Chief Judge job is not exactly glamorous though...
Easterbrook is not particularly excited about the new job, which is mainly an administrative one, because he'd rather spend time on judicial work. Still, he said he's duty-bound to take his turn.

As chief, he'll have general oversight of staff, facilities and budget matters for the 15 courts in the three states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. He will also handle any concerns about the competence of about 100 judges on those courts.
Chiefs spend a lot of their time running the courts. You get a cool title, but you definitely earn it with the hours that you put in at the office. For an excellent description of what the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court does, you can read about Chief Justice Warren Burger's early years as Chief in The Brethren by Bob Woorward and Scott Armstrong.

More on Easterbrook the judge...
While attorneys, professors and colleagues mainly praise Easterbrook's intellect and knowledge of law, their opinions about his tough courtroom style vary widely. Some say he's too harsh with attorneys, but are reluctant to talk about it publicly, given the possibility they may face him in court. He elicits a combination of reactions: Attorneys find him intimidating, but also intellectually challenging.

Stephen Moore, an attorney with Chicago-based Rowland & Moore, said that his time before Easterbrook "was probably the most enjoyable oral argument I ever had," describing it as "dueling with a brilliant mind."

But he also noted, "[y]ou'll see him, I don't want to say attacking an attorney, but putting them on the defensive. All parties are subject to his wrath."

Easterbrook earned the second-highest ranking in a 2003 study that sought to quantify the quality of federal judges' work by, among other things, counting citations to their work and measuring how fast they produced opinions. Easterbrook's fellow 7th Circuit judge, Richard Posner, ranked No. 1.
He's tough and brilliant. It's a great combination. The article goes on to mention Easterbrook's worthiness to be on the Supreme Court. I would be behind an Easterbrook nomination 100%. His opinions are well written, clear, and forceful when they need to be. He would lend another strong voice at oral argument for questioning. He would also bring over two decades of judicial experience and insight to the bench. To continue the John Roberts law-baseball analogies of the past year, an Easterbrook nomination would be a grand slam. Until then, I'll just have to settle with him on the Seventh Circuit. I'll deal with it.

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