District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Natalia Combs Greene received a rare public rebuke last month from a judicial review commission.
Greene retired earlier this year after serving 15 years on the bench and sought appointment as a senior judge. The D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure gave her a favorable recommendation, but also alerted Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield in a Nov. 13 letter to complaints about Greene’s temperament.
When the judge presided in the high-volume landlord-and-tenant branch, her “demeanor was oftentimes less than courteous, and on occasion even rude and intimidating; moreover some of her comments during those proceedings were exceedingly inappropriate,” commission chairwoman U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler wrote.
The commission ultimately recommended Greene (at left) for appointment as a senior judge, though. Kessler explained in the letter that Greene’s positive traits as a judge and “significant contribution to the Court” outweighed concerns about her temperament.
Greene, who couldn’t be reached for comment, accepted the commission’s findings, according to the letter, and pledged to do better if she became a senior judge. If Greene became a senior judge, though, the commission recommended she not be assigned to landlord-and-tenant or other “high-volume” branches of the court.
Kessler wrote that the commission was “aware of the enormous challenges judges face” in high-volume ­courtrooms. Still, she said, “[d]espite the frustration a judge may feel, a raised voice, impatient tone, or off-handed remark only makes the situation more stressful and tense for the litigants and more difficult for the judge.” — Zoe Tillman
JUSTICE GINSBURG IS THE ‘NOTORIOUS R.B.G.’
While email messaging among U.S. Supreme Court ­justices is still a rarity — they prefer to circulate draft ­opinions via messengers between chambers — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s only octogenarian, has shown she knows her way around the web.
During an interview with Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill, for the latest issue of Stanford Lawyer, Ginsburg quickly responded, “The Notorious RBG!” when Magill asked if she were aware of a Tumblr page dedicated to the justice.
Not only is the justice aware, but Ginsburg admitted she had tried to order from Tumblr a t-shirt emblazoned with her image and the wording, “Notorious R.B.G.,” but the site had completely sold out. “They had them in hoodies, sweatshirts, t-shirts,” the justice told Magill. Well, they are back in time for holiday orders, according to the Tumblr page — notoriousrbg.tumblr.com, which was created by Shana Knizhnik, a student at New York University School of Law.
Magill told Ginsburg that her Tumblr site has “lots of followers.” And she asked if the justice’s grandchildren knew of her “rock star” status.
“I’d have to ask my 20-something granddaughter, now studying at Cambridge, England,” said Ginsburg, adding, “I think she would like to have a ‘Notorious R.B.G.’ t-shirt.” — Marcia Coyle
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUED OVER ACCESS TO NO-CHARGE DEAL
The U.S. Department of Justice is being sued in Washington over its refusal to publicly disclose a $2 million nonprosecution agreement prosecutors reached with a Houston-based tree services company that employed undocumented workers.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas issued a news release in May 2012 revealing the deal between prosecutors and ABC Professional Tree Services Inc. The company agreed to forfeit $2 million in revenue that flowed from the use of undocumented workers between 2006 and 2011.
But prosecutors will not disclose a copy of the agreement between the government and ABC, according to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed Nov. 26 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression represents the challenger, Jonathan Ashley, a business reference librarian at the University of Virginia School of Law. Ashley and Brandon Garrett, a criminal justice scholar at the law school, run a website that features nonprosecution and deferred-prosecution agreements.
“The public has a right of access to such documents as the debate on prosecution agreements escalates,” Ashley’s complaint said. The suit said that federal courts “have been skeptical of both NPAs and DPAs, and there is increasing concern that NPAs provide a run-around the judicial process since courts have little say in whether a prosecutor can bring charges or not.”
The lawsuit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. — Mike Scarcella
TOP PATENT OFFICE LAWYER REJOINS CROWELL
Teresa “Terry” Stanek Rea rejoined Crowell & Moring as a partner last week after spending almost three years as deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Rea, who also served as the acting director of the PTO for 10 months, joined the firm’s intellectual property group in Washington. At the patent office, she helped implement sweeping changes to intellectual property law brought on by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, including the creation of new post-grant review processes.
Rea expects to find most of her work in that area. “I helped write those rules and regulations and I have a feel for navigating that system and that world, and they’re exceedingly popular right now,” Rea said. Rea was the senior official at the PTO responsible for the administration’s formulation and implementation of U.S. intellectual property policies, including patent, copyright and trade secrets issues. In addition to being a partner at the firm, Rea also joins as a director at C&M International Ltd., the international trade and investment consulting firm affiliated with Crowell.
Rea originally joined Crowell as a partner in January 2008 from Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. She left to join the PTO in Feb. 2011. — Todd Ruger
TWO SUPREME CLERKS GO TO GOODWIN
Two more U.S. Supreme Court law clerks from last term have found homes at a major law firm. Goodwin Procter has announced that David Zimmer, a clerk to Justice Elena Kagan, and Brian Burgess, who clerked for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, have joined the firm. Goodwin Procter appellate co-chairman William Jay said the two new associates will “help build on our appellate successes” and signal to clients that the practice is getting “bigger and better.”
Burgess was a special assistant to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. before his Sotomayor clerkship. Zimmer came highly recommended by Kagan, for whom Jay also worked. The two join seven other former Supreme Court clerks at the firm, which has another notable connection to the Supreme Court: James Rehnquist, a partner in the Boston home office, is the son of the late chief justice. — Tony Mauro
WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO STICK AROUND
Kathryn Ruemmler will stay at her post as White House counsel for a few more months, delaying her return to private practice in New York until the spring, an Obama administration official said last week. Ruemmler originally planned to leave the job as one of President Obama’s closest advisers by the end of the year. She agreed to delay that move after speaking with the president, the official said.
It’s not the first time Obama convinced the former Latham & Watkins partner to stay longer than she intended. She had agreed to stay on as the White House’s top lawyer through the November presidential election, but Obama asked her to stay and she stayed. Ruemmler succeeded Robert Bauer as White House counsel. Gregory Craig was the president’s first top in-house attorney. — Todd Ruger