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Court: 9th U.S. Circuit Court of AppealsAppointed: By President Clinton, 1999 Date of Birth: July 12, 1939Previous Judicial Experience:None Law Degree: Stanford Law School Raymond Fisher has a banker’s countenance, but hidden beneath it is a career spent close to the levers of power in both Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge has captained the Justice Department’s civil litigators, helped Los Angeles emerge from the funk that followed the Rodney King riots and even gave Dirty Harry a hand up. But that’s in the past. In fact, it’s hard to see him now and believe he was a high-flying litigator who once represented Clint Eastwood in two well-known cases and established Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe’s foothold in Southern California. “Judicial temperament” is an overly used clich�, but Fisher could be the poster child. His evenhanded bench presence at first seems to fall closer to taciturn than talkative, but it does not keep him from asking questions or cracking a sly joke about his diminishing hairline. In arguments, Fisher says he seeks clarity from lawyers. The briefs are where a case is, more often than not, won and lost. “The brief has to be good because it’s 80 percent of what influences the outcome,” Fisher said. And he has some words of advice. Be succinct and clear. “One of the recurring problems many briefs have is that they don’t let … the judge understand what the case is all about,” Fisher said. “I think all briefs should start with a cogent summary.” And be accurate. If you aren’t accurate, you’ll lose credibility, he said. Which is not to say that oral arguments are unimportant, he added. “We always get useful insights.” Looming large in Fisher’s background is former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who met Fisher while recruiting him to enroll in Stanford Law School. “Preparation, preparation, preparation,” is the advice Christopher would give lawyers appearing before Fisher. “You could expect a fair hearing but you could also expect him to find the weak points in your case.” Since joining the court in 1999 without any judicial experience, Fisher has proved to be a quick study. That can be measured by the fact that he has authored several en banc opinions. The most recent held Consolidated Freightways Inc. liable for spying on its employees from behind two-way bathroom mirrors in Cramer v. Consolidated Freightways, 01 C.D.O.S. 4945. Fisher had dissented from an earlier three-judge panel decision. But the en bancs are not his most significant decisions to date, at least not locally. That would be Air Transport Association v. City and County of San Francisco, 01 C.D.O.S. 7985, which upheld San Francisco’s domestic partners benefits law. He has also held that nervousness alone cannot be a reason to search a motorist, and that a school district was justified in expelling a student who penned a violent fantasy in verse. Both cases await votes on a possible rehearing. One of Fisher’s dissents came in a closely watched intellectual property case holding that a gothic-inspired ornamental gate seen in one of Warner Bros.’ Batman films was not copyrightable, since it is part of the overall architecture of a Los Angeles building. During one recent oral argument in an insurance case that pivoted on the state law definition of a motor vehicle, the panel questioned an Arizona lawyer who had not heard of a case cited in supplemental briefing. Another judge asked the lawyer whether he did, in fact, practice insurance law in the state of Arizona. At the comment, Fisher cracked a smile. Then he suggested that the attorney might want to brush up on the case. The incident was a reminder of another Fisher maxim. “On probability, it’s easier to lose an oral argument than it is to win it,” Fisher said. “I’ve seen cases go south … under cross-examination from the bench.” He is not above making tough calls. Many in Southern California remember that he was head of the Los Angeles Police Commission when it withdrew support for the city’s first black police chief, Willie Williams. The decision placed Fisher at the center of a civic debate that bordered on a city crisis. But the storm eventually passed, and Christopher credited Fisher’s reputation. “It was quite controversial, and the fact that he lost confidence in the chief was a decisive factor in the public’s acceptance” of Williams’ ouster, Christopher said. Fisher arrived at the LAPC after serving on the Christopher Commission, headed by O’Melveny & Myers’ senior partner Warren Christopher and charged with studying the root causes of the Rodney King riots. Fisher wrote the key chapter outlining structural changes in the Los Angeles Police Department. In 1997, Fisher was tapped to lead the Justice Department’s civil division, but it proved to be only a stopover until President Clinton nominated him to the bench. His wife and two children are all teachers. Fisher said he is dedicated to public service, which includes bringing high school kids to the 9th Circuit to hear oral arguments. “I think it’s very important for lawyers … to not just do the practice of law, but to give our time to the public interest.”

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