More so than any applicant I saw interviewed, Judge Barzee appeared to have a conversation with the committee members, rather than an interview.
Judge Gayles came next,
It seemed to me that Judge Gayles faced a bit of an uphill battle with the committee because of his youth and his position as a County Court Judge. Many questions focused on his readiness to become a district court judge. His response was to point out that Judges Huck, Jordan, Seitz, Middlebrooks and Martinez had never been on the bench before being appointed.
If Judge Gayle's obstacle with the committee was his youth, Ms. Lowery's appeared to be the fact she is not on the bench (not to suggest she looked old -- she did not). Here is a eminently qualified individual, who is at the top of her profession, and I felt the like the committee honed in on the fact that she is not a judge. I wish they would have asked her some questions that brought out her qualifications based on her big law experience.
Another issue that was raised, was something relating to 28 U.S.C. s. 458. Apparently Ms. Lowry is married to a magistrate judge and one of the committee members seemed to suggest the above referenced statute somehow disqualified her from appointment. Were that really the case, one has to wonder why they would have interviewed her.
Equally, or possibly more so then Judge Rosenbaum, Kathy Williams' opening remarks were thoughtful, prepared and on point. To understand Ms. Williams' interview, you have to have a bit of an appreciation for the setting --
The interviews are being conducted in the judge's conference room in the new courthouse. The room is triangularly shaped and there are huge windows on the longer walls. The room has an enormous conference table in the middle with all the members scrunched in, and the interviewee sits on one end by herself. There is some limited spectator seating, perhaps 15 - 20 seats in total, which for much of the day was adequate. When Kathy Williams was interviewed, the place was overflowing with clerks from what seemed like every chamber in the building.
The committee didn't seem to me to be interested whatsoever in whether or not Kathy Williams is qualified to be a district judge, the answer was clearly known by all of them, they seemed only to want to assure themselves that if given the spot, Ms. Williams would be fair to all sides.
One of the funnier points came when Ms. Williams was asked which judge's in the Southern District she admires -- looking up at the room stacked with law clerks, she smiled and said 'hello clerks' and proceeded to identify Judges Markus, Barkett and Dan Pearson. Seeing the way that committee treated Ms. Williams and the way she fielded their questions would make anybody who has any connection to her, even if it is like me by simply being on the CJA panel, proud as hell to have seen her interview.
It was clear that many people contacted the committee members on behalf of Kathy Williams, and had glowing things to say. Ms. Williams took the time during her closing remarks to give what was clearly a very heartfelt thanks to all of them.
Not much to say about the Judge's interview, nobody was questioning his qualifications to sit as a district judge; he carried a genuine air of effortless authority throughout the interview.
The committee seemed in awe of Kathy Williams, the committee had a great conversation with Judge Barzee, but with Judge Scola, the committee was completely at ease and relaxed.
Judge Scola was self effacing and demonstrated his quick wit. One of the funniest points was when one of the committee members pointed out that he was on the JNC that sent Judge Scola's name to the governor when the Judge was appointed to circuit court. The judge immediately responded that he is not a superstitious person, but that for some reason he is wearing the same tie today that he did during that interview in 1995! At another point, Georgina Angones said that she had heard so many good things from people about Judge Scola, and asked what Judge Scola thought about the fact that they all ended by saying they would hate to lose him as a circuit judge. Steve Zack quickly said, I'll answer that for you, turned to Ms. Angones and said "get another circuit judge!" Another committee member said he played on the same baseball team as Judge Scola at some point and asked the Judge to confirm that he was a really good player...the Judge smiled, rolled his eyes, looked up and said, 'of course, you were incredible.'
On judicial philosophy, the Judge echoed the sentiment that was expressed by others who are or were trial lawyers like Judge Barzee, and Kathy Williams, that a judge should not inject themselves into a trial, but should allow the lawyers to do their jobs.
Overall, I must say that the process was intense, and very interesting to watch. I encourage you all to go watch the US Atty interviews tomorrow, if you cannot, I will be there and will do my best to let you know what happens.