The XX Factor

Bullies on the Bench

More on Rosen attacking Sotomayor : It’s not just women judges who get blasted for being tough. It’s also tough male judges - including judges whose intellectual and personal qualifications for the Supreme Court it’s hard to imagine anyone questioning. As a commenter at the New Republic points out , it’s worth comparing the complaints about Sotomayor’s temperament and demeanor to what lawyers have to say about a couple of male lions of the bench, Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner, both of the 7th Circuit. From the entry on Easterbrook in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary :

Lawyers were critical in their assessment of Easterbrook’s courtroom demeanor. “His courtroom demeanor is not good for lawyers.” “He creates a discourteous environment in the courtroom. He likes to circle his kill and gives a nod and a wink to his clerk when he catches his prey.” … “He berates lawyers mercilessly if that is the direction he is going. If he is with you, be quiet, and if he opposes your position watch out and get ready to be embarrassed in open court. He berates lawyers. It is almost a game to him.” “If you are on the right side, it is fun. If you’re on the wrong side, it is hell. The rules of civility for the circuit have not reined him in.” … He bullies weak lawyers and enjoys it.” “His attitude is the worst. He berates lawyers and shows off to his clerks how powerful and smart he is.”

From the Almanac entry on Posner:

Lawyers said Posner can be tough on lawyers. “His demeanor is not very good. He talks a lot more than he should. He wants all to know how smart he is.” “He can talk down to lawyers and give them an extremely hard time.” … “His agenda seems to be to make lawyers uncomfortable, and he succeeds. … “He often crosses over the line in his demeaning treatment of lawyers.” “He can be very condescending.” “His demeanor is simple to describe-take no prisoners. If I never see him again, it will be O.K.”

Some of the lawyers were more appreciative. Just like some of them had nicer things to say about Sotomayor. But tough judges are hard on lawyers, and hard for them. There’s plenty more to be said about how the judges could handle themselves better. But at the moment, my question is this: If Posner was on a Supreme Court short list, would Rosen or anyone else write The Case Against Posner because some lawyers think he’s a big meanie? That one’s also hard to imagine.