Monthly Archives: October 2011

D.C. Circuit Upholds Semi-Automatic Rifle Ban Under Intermediate Scrutiny

Earlier this month, a divided panel of the D.C. Circuit upheld the District of Columbia’s ban on semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines and the District’s gun registration requirement as applied to handguns. Continue reading


Judge Griffith: “No member of my court would feel comfortable with the description of the D.C. Circuit as the second most important court in the land. None of us has any idea what that means. But our parents like to say that about us.”

Judge Thomas B. Griffith spoke last Thursday as part of a career lecture series at Brigham Young University, his alma mater. Before and after his career advice, Judge Griffith offered these words about his job on the D.C. Circuit and his path to the law:

About the court:

No member of my court would feel comfortable with the descriptions that the media often uses of the D.C. Circuit. Sometimes in the media it’s referred to as the second most important court in the land. I have no idea what that means. None of us has any idea what that means. But our parents like to say that about us.

About the work of an appellate judge:

[I]f you like reading and if you like writing you’ll love it, because that’s what we spend most of out time doing. . . . If you are an extrovert and enjoy interaction with a lot of different people , you ‘ll be sadly disappointed. I happen to be an extrovert, and so therefore I except invitations to come out and meet people and speak. I enjoy this a great deal. But most of my time is spent by myself reading and writing.

About writing opinions:

I’ve heard Justice Scalia say he typically has five drafts of the opinions that he writes. Judge Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit–the rumor is that he goes through about sixty drafts of opinions. I’m somewhere in between, but I’m a lot closer to Justice Scalia.

About choosing the law:

The job I really wanted growing up–I really wanted to be a minister. I was an Episcopalian. Man, if we [the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints] had a paid ministry that’s where I’d be. That’s my first choice. But–dagone it–there really were gold plates, so that sort of limited my options that way. This is clearly a second choice way below that. But for somebody who’s majored in humanities and comparative literature there weren’t too many options.

About quitting law school (He went back):

I’ll tell you why I quit: Because I was really terrified. My classmates just intimidated me to death. I went to BYU and I did really, really well here. I had great grades, I was valedictorian of my college, and I had a lot of self confidence.  I went to the University of Virginia law school, and I felt completely overwhelmed by my classmates, most of whom had gone to Ivy League schools and had done well there. And I just thought, “ah, I just, I can’t . . .” Truth be known, I just–I chickened out.

The BYU student newspaper reports on Judge Griffith’s advice to the current students of his alma mater:

1. Be nice to people. “You never know who the people you deal with now are going to be,” Griffith said.

2. Pay attention to detail. “The good things have all come when I took my time and did the hard work to get the right answer.”

3. Learn to write, think and speak clearly. “Bad news . . . it takes time. Get better at it.”

4. Build the Kingdom. “See if you can find, in your motivation for your work, the Atonement of Christ.”

Judge Griffith graduated from BYU in 1978. He was Assistant to the President and General Counsel of BYU from 2000 until his appointment to the D.C. Circuit.  He is an adjunct faculty member at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School where he teaches a course on Presidential Power.

Video of Judge Griffith’s talk is available here from the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies.

(Hat Tip: Mitch Staley, Federal Judge Thomas B. Griffith imparts wisdom at David M. Kennedy Center (Oct. 7, 2011))

Prior Coverage:

Judge Hogan to Lead Administrative Office of the United States Courts

Chief Justice Roberts announced Thursday the appointment of Senior Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

(Hat Tip: David Stout, D.C. Federal Judge to Lead U.S. Courts’ Administrative Office, Main Justice (Oct. 7, 2011)).

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Supreme Court Shows Interest in D.C. Circuit’s Torture Victim Protection Act Opinion

After its “long conference,” the Supreme Court relisted Mohamad v. Rajoub, No. 11-88 (S. Ct.) [Mohamad v. Rajoub, No. 09-7109 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 18, 2011) (Ginsburg, J., joined by Tatel & Garland, JJ.)] for reconsideration of the cert petition at a future conference. Continue reading

D.C. Circuit Review Honors Justice Scalia for 25 Years as a Former D.C. Circuit Judge

Justice Scalia was honored yesterday for 25 years on the Supreme Court. But his judicial career started four years before his elevation to the Supreme Court. President Ronald Reagan nominated Professor Antonin Scalia to the D.C. Circuit on July 15, 1982.  He was confirmed by the Senate (98-0) on August 5, 1982, and sworn into office on August 17, 1982.

In retrospect, it is no surprise that the Great Dissenter‘s first published opinion was a dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc. Washington Post Co. v. U.S. Dept. of State, 685 F.2d 698, 707 (D.C. Cir. 1982), vacated, 104 S.Ct. 418 (1983). The panel opinion had held, before Scalia even joined the Court, that Exemption 3 of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) did not protect the State Department from the Washington Post’s request for certain financial records, and that subsequent legislation had failed to bring them within the Exemption’s protection.

In two short pages of classic Scalia dissent, the novice jurist argued that a more recent statute, which imposed “the most detailed limitations” on the release of the relevant records, had effectively removed the records from FOIA’s general presumption of access. Judge Scalia lambasted the panel opinion for its reliance on “legislative history alone” and for its “perverse result.” Id. For his part, Scalia relied on “traditional canons of interpretation” and on the “congressionally approved tradition and practice of confidentiality in foreign affairs matters.” Id. He expressed a now-familiar concern for “the development of a coherent body of law,” and even hinted that deference to the Executive Branch’s statutory interpretation might be in order. (“The language of Exemption 3 would certainly bear the interpretation the Government urged.”).  Id.  Judge Scalia seems to have arrived at the D.C. Circuit with his enduring judicial philosophy already fully formed.

Judge Scalia left the D.C. Circuit in September 1986 to become the 103rd Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Yesterday, Chief Justice Roberts quipped, “[t]he place has not been the same since.” Neither place has.

(Hat Tip: Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog)

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Judge Griffith to Offer “Career Reflections” at BYU

D.C. Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith will give a lecture entitled “Career Reflections: Judiciary,” on Thursday, October 6, at Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. The lecture will take place at 4:00 p.m., in room 238 of BYU’s Herald R. Clark Building and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.   Continue reading