Thursday, June 20, 2013

"The best appellate judges served on the trial court first." T or F?

Today's DJ's cover story is titled True or false? The best appellate court judges serve on the trial court first.
For decades in California, the path to becoming a state appellate court justice has run through the trial courts. In fact, it's been almost impossible to get appointed to an appellate court if you didn't first sit on a superior court - unless you worked for a governor or came from the federal bench. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, by contrast, has a long history of seating judges without prior judicial experience. But the question of qualifications is timely now as Gov. Jerry Brown looks to fill five seats on the state courts of appeal and President Barack Obama two vacancies on the 9th Circuit.
The article notes that three of the seven justices on the California Supreme Court were never trial court judges. In the 9th Circuit, half of the active judges had no prior judicial experience.

The article quotes Justice Kane on the side who say appellate court judges should serve in the trial courts: "[In] most professions, you don't have people making the rules that never did it. I mean, do we have neurosurgeons at a medical school that have never done surgery? I don't think so. But we do that in the law."

In contrast, Justice Hoch is quoted: "It's beneficial to the courts - whether trial courts, appellate courts or the Supreme Court - to have a variety of backgrounds and experience so you have the benefit of that knowledge on the court, and the benefit of that experience. I don't think it's a cookie-cutter approach."
Gavel cookie cutter!