“Is this guy the second coming of Benjamin Cardozo, or is he a blithering idiot?”
The above quote may or may not be an actual line of dialogue spoken to me by an attorney during a recent judicial profile request. Though typically not as colorfully submitted, requests for judicial profile searches are ubiquitous. This is logical: there are 600+ federal judges swinging gavels around out there, way too many for a single attorney to become familiar with. And, each one of these individual appointments has his or her own personality quirks and idiosyncrasies (they are humans after all), variables that can easily play a role in a case’s proceedings. This creates a need for descriptive information about a judge’s judicial temperament, procedure, and–to take the above example, intelligence. And, the ideal source for this specific information has to be supplied by people attorneys can trust. Isn’t it shocking to find out this source may be…other attorneys?
Benchmark Litigation’s Benchmark Judges offers judicial profiles comprised of content collected and compiled via interviews with “thousands of litigators across America about sitting federal judges in whose courts they have appeared”. Importantly, the interviewed attorneys retain their anonymity. And, this anonymity creates honesty—a judge’s personality and pet peeves are candidly discussed. For example, in the Benchmark Litigation of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Chief Judge Loretta Preska, attorneys warn:
Chief Judge Preska is said to be intolerant of a lack of preparation or professionalism. For instance, she might straightforwardly state that attorneys should stop wasting time in briefs or oral argument with repetitive, extraneous, or ridiculous arguments. As one puts it, “Do not enter her court with a ridiculous argument. She will skewer you.”
The profiles do not end just with discussions of a judge’s personality and pet peeves. Each profile is organized categorically, with a multitude of subjects including, but not limited to: discovery practice, pleadings & motion practice, trial practice and settlement, legal strengths & weaknesses, etc. With these profiles, an attorney is able to obtain a complete and practical assessment of the person underneath the robe before ever stepping foot into a federal courthouse.
ALMANAC OF THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY
The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary provides its own Lawyer Evaluations, obtained via the same methodology: interviews with litigators, kept anonymous, who have real-working experience appearing before individual judges. Again, this model produces practical information about a judge’s “style, demeanor, knowledge, and management of courtroom proceedings”. On the whole, matching profiles head-to-head I have have found Benchmark Litigation’s profiles are generally more robust than the Lawyer Evaluation sections in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, however, the Almanac also supplies more supplemental information concerning the judges and their courts. The Almanac’s profiles contain sections on a judge’s biographical information, including topics such as education, professional background, awards, and professional associations. Conveniently, local rules are posted in each Judge’s profile. Selected profiles even include a list of the judge’s noteworthy rulings.
Commercially, the American Bench, for example, has been providing judicial information for nearly 40 years. The strength of the entries is the biographical information per judge, and that this collection, beyond the federal-level, features state and local judges as well.
The Federal Judicial Center provides basic biographical information about judges; and, with coverage extending back to 1789, there is a clear historical emphasis regarding those who sat on the bench.
As far as federal biographical information goes, judgepedia has recently been merged with ballotpedia, which features wikis on sitting federal judges and state judges. Of course, some court sites offer judicial biographical information, but the caveat is, though sometimes what’s out there can be good, mostly the coverage is scattershot.
Judges are humans too, and, just like the rest of us, they are full of quirks, idiosyncrasies, and even eccentricities. The above resources do a great job of detailing those personality traits and providing background information on these individuals, giving requesters all they need to know make sure proceedings run smooth, and the knowledge that they may be appearing before the second coming of Benjamin Cardozo, or a blithering idiot.