Ever since Bush v. Gore, we’ve come to expect that federal courts will divide along predictable ideological lines: Judges appointed by Democrats are supposed to vote for Democratic priorities, while judges appointed by Republicans are supposed to prefer Republican priorities. In short, many people now assume judicial institutions will behave like legislative ones. But four recent decisions from the federal appellate courts call this assumption into question. On November 8, Judge Laurence Silberman, writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
Attention was understandably focused on Sonia Sotomayor this week, as her confirmation hearings unfolded. But what about Obama's other judicial nominees? The president has so far nominated five judges to federal circuit courts. On average, these nominees are 55 years old, more than a decade older than Sotomayor was when she was nominated to the Second Circuit. (She was 43.) For years, Republicans have been nominating sharp young conservatives to the lower federal courts.
This isn't something you hear every day: One of the highest-ranking federal judges in the United States, who is currently presiding over an obscenity trial in Los Angeles, has maintained a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos. Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, acknowledged in an interview with The Times that he had posted the materials, which included a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal.
Federal judges are about to make a crucial decision on workplace privacy, but you won't read about it in a court opinion. On September 11, the Judicial Conference of the United States, the organization with ultimate authority over the internal operation of the federal courts, will decide whether to approve or dismantle a computer program that monitors judges and their staff members when they use the Internet on the job.