Paul Watford Nominated to the Ninth Circuit

Orin blogged about this earlier today, and said he hopes Paul will be confirmed. I very much agree.

I know Paul from when my then-boss Judge Alex Kozinski hired him as a law clerk (Paul clerked two years after I did), and I’ve always been very impressed by him. He graduated near the top of his class at UCLA (#4, I think), went on to clerk for Judge Kozinski and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and since then has developed an excellent reputation as a first-rate appellate lawyer. He’s extremely smart, thoughtful, reasonable, and judicious. He also has experience both on the criminal side — he was a federal prosecutor for three years — and on the civil side. If confirmed, he’ll make a superb judge.

Of course, Paul was nominated by President Obama, and I expect that if he is confirmed he will likely sign some opinions that I’ll disagree with. (He’ll also sign plenty of opinions that I’ll agree with; the bulk of a circuit judge’s work has to do with technical areas of the law where legal knowledge, careful craftsmanship, and a willingness to follow precedent are much more important than one’s views about the law.) But Obama is the President, and moderate libertarianish conservatives like me can’t expect nominees who’ll see things quite the ways we do. If we want such nominees, we need to first win the election, and we didn’t win that one.

So the questions for me when I think about whether I should support such a court of appeals nominee are: Would he be the sort of judge whom I could respect intellectually? Would he be the sort of judge whom I could trust to be fair-minded and attentive to legal rules? Is he likely to be more on the moderate side rather than solidly on the left? For Paul, my answer to all these questions is a definite yes.

I should note that the question whether to actively oppose a judicial nominee — as opposed to just not supporting him (for whatever that’s worth) — who doesn’t meet these criteria is a difficult one, and one that I haven’t fully thought through. But for the reasons I mentioned, that’s a question that doesn’t even come up for me. Paul is the sort of Democratic nominee that moderates and conservatives, as well as liberals, should solidly support.

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