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August 25, 2011

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In the "Justice delayed. justice denied" article you cited, why is the fact that the district judge in the Central District of California "was appointed by GWB" relevant?

Put another way, would you find it objectionable if someone else simply stated that a district judge "who was appointed by WJC (Clinton) or BHO (Obama)" had been sitting on R&Rs recommending the denial of habeas petitions?

To be sure, I am not commenting on the merits of those cases. I am merely pointing out that judicial philosophies of federal judges are far too often attributed to those of the president that appointed them. While such an analogy may hold true in the Supreme Court, and to some extent in the courts of appeal, I think its much more tenuous in the context of district judges.

JP,

I think that's a valid question. Is the president who appointed a federal district court judge relevant? In most situations, I don't think it is. And I would tend to agree that the appointment of district court judges is less political. But they remain political appointments. And the people who get nominated for district court positions often have strong political connections to the president's party. It does not necessarily mean that they will pursue the agenda of the party. But sometimes it does happen that way. And one part of the republican agenda, for years, has been to limit habeas relief. So I believe it is relevant to this particular story that a judge who was appointed by a republican seems to be antagonistic to habeas petitioners.

But it is also a fair question to ask whether I would have mentioned that the judge was a democratic appointee if the situation had been reversed. To be honest, I am guessing I probably wouldn't have. So, to be somewhat even handed, I'll say that, from my experience, I do know that some clinton appointees work very, very slowly on habeas cases. I don't know of a pattern of those judges sitting on recommended habeas denials and then granting relief (that could be true, but in my experience it's usually just sitting on recommended habeas denials and then denying relief). But there has been serious delays from some democratically-appointed judges.

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