October 10, 2003

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Wednesday morning, I observed arguments before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite the human feces on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse steps, I couldn't believe how much the reality of the Court of Appeals matched my dreams for what it should be.

The courtroom was smaller than I expected, with seating for 50 people, two small tables for the attorneys, and the bench, which was flanked in the back by Grecian-looking female statues carrying a banner on their heads. I stood in the corner, near a floor-to-ceiling marble pillar, as the arguments for the next case began. The judges presiding over the arguments were: Procter Hug, Jr., Senior Circuit Judge, who was quick to smile and engage attorneys in humorous word-play; A. Wallace Tashima, Senior Circuit Judge, who spent much of his time examining documents, but when he did speak, it was apparent that he was listening very carefully to every word that was said despite his lack of eye contact; and Betty Binns Fletcher, Circuit Judge, who had a disarmingly soft-spoken voice that delivered the most critical comments of the three judges. All of the judges were plain-spoken, and appeared to know the law better than any of the attorneys before them.

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