X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Court: Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of AppealsAppointed: 2000, by President ClintonDate of Birth: Dec. 16, 1952Law School: McGeorge School of Law at University of the PacificPrior Judicial Experience: U.S. District Court for the District of NevadaIf still waters run deep, Judge Johnnie Rawlinson is Lake Tahoe.As one of the newer members of the court, Rawlinson, by and large, remains a person whose judicial identity is a work in progress — she has yet to distinguish herself on a crowded court peopled by some of the more colorful judges on the federal bench.But one would be hard-pressed to find someone who rose quicker to such a commanding position in the law — from a senior manager in the Las Vegas district attorney’s office to Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals nominee in two years, with a pit stop on the district court bench.Perhaps it took that sort of acceleration for Judge Rawlinson — the first black woman to sit on the Ninth Circuit — to break the barrier that she did.Rawlinson’s often muted presence is likely to leave lawyers wondering where she stands on their case following arguments. Her opinions get to the point quickly, without much exposition on the broader implications of the ruling at hand.She graduated from McGeorge School of Law at University of the Pacific, and worked one year each in private practice and for Nevada Legal Services before starting a nearly two-decade career in the Clark County district attorney’s office.“I used her as my own personal lawyer,” said current Clark County District Attorney Stewart Bell, who was elected after Rawlinson had been there more than a dozen years. “I thought she had such good judgment that I went to her when I had a tough ethical or legal decision.”Bell appointed Rawlinson to oversee the civil, family and administrative sections of the office. She also sat on the death penalty review committee and was one of three charged with staffing the office with new hires.Rawlinson declined to be interviewed for this profile, citing her workload.She was nominated by President Clinton to a district court seat in Las Vegas before he elevated her to the Ninth Circuit in 2000. That the nomination came late in Clinton’s tenure did not hurt Rawlinson, and she was approved by the Senate without controversy.She has dissented once in her tenure on the circuit court, which came in a border case authored by Judge Pamela Rymer. Curiously, when a rehearing was sought en banc, Rawlinson recommended against it. [A request to rehear a case draws a vote of the entire court, but Rawlinson did not make that request.]“Judge Rawlinson was actually quite nice, and I think I’ll remember her more for that than anything — trying to help the new attorney out,” said Angela Krueger, an attorney with Federal Defenders of San Diego Inc., who argued the case in her first Ninth Circuit argument.Earlier this year, Rawlinson authored perhaps her most important opinion to date, writing that the Endangered Species Act requires the government to act within one year when a species is proposed as endangered.Dan Rohlf, director of the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center at Lewis & Clark College, said Rawlinson asked a few questions but that he did not leave the argument with any indication of where Rawlinson stood.Bell and others in Las Vegas remain ardent supporters. “She is such a talented lady that there isn’t any job that she couldn’t handle,” Bell said.But she has yet to show the flash of other Ninth Circuit judges.In another recent case, she authored an opinion upholding a lower court’s dismissal of a pro se prisoner appeal on procedural grounds. Rawlinson weighed five factors under the relevant standards of review and concluded:“Three factors favor dismissal and two factors weigh against dismissal. This is a close case and, under these circumstances, we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion.”Both the concurring judge, Stephen Trott, and the dissenter, Chief Judge Mary Schroeder, wrote to point out that the case touched on broader issues.Trott, referring to open seats on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California bench and displaying a more typical style of Ninth Circuit rhetorical brashness, wrote: “With as many as six vacancies gone unattended by the political branches of our government far too long, our trial courts do not have time to waste on multiple failures by aspiring litigants to follow the rules and regulations of the court.”In dissent, Shroeder countered: “Of course our courts are very busy. The irony is that this case has now been before a half dozen Article III judges and languished in courts for four years without anyone taking a peek at its merits.”Rawlinson may eventually develop a similar style, but only time will tell.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.