Friday, February 22, 2013

D.C. Circuit Presentation: Deleted Scenes

The only problem with covering a recent panel presentation by three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was narrowing down the material. The original report, which told what the judges had to say about the sequester and the recess appointments case, ran at Above the Law, linked here.

Below are some "deleted scenes" from the excellent presentation by Chief Judge Merrick Garland, Judge Thomas Griffith, and Senior Judge Laurence Silberman, as part of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society's annual conference held last week at Georgetown Law.

*Silberman sees the decline in law school applications as a "healthy shakeout." There are too many good people going into law, he said.

*Griffith's advice for life is to "be nice," because it is the right thing to do. If you do not care about doing the right thing and just want to get ahead, his advice is the same. You never know when your paths will cross with someone again.

*Garland fielded a question about work-life balance. He does not want to hold himself up as an example; he works very hard. But one thing he did do when his kids were growing up was drive them to school. They always had that half hour together at the beginning of the day. Sometimes it was just "a bunch of sarcasm" or listening to the radio. But other times, his kids would tell him what they were "thinking and worrying about," and he values those times.

*When Garland was giving the last comment, he explained, "I don't leave at five and come in at ten....It's not my way." Silberman, the senior judge on the panel, jumped in with, "It's my way."

*Garland likes to do his own writing. "Don't feel 'dissed' if I don't use your language," he tells his clerks, "in the current vernacular."

*Silberman seemed to commit a cardinal sin of the D.C. Circuit and fall into his own personal pet peeve. Acronyms are disfavored at the circuit, and court rules require an acronym glossary in briefs.

When Silberman mentioned FERC during the presentation, Garland spelled out "Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" and added, with a hint of tongue in cheek, "We don't like acronyms in our court." (In Silberman's defense, FERC is one of the acronyms approved in the D.C. Circuit's practice handbook.)

*Griffith quoted James McPherson, who wrote that Abraham Lincoln "was not a quick study but a thorough one." You do not need to be the most brilliant person, Griffith posited, if you are thorough.

*Silberman remarked that with administrative decisions, one person should make the calls. From his law firm days, he remembers an extended debate over which floor the library would be on.