Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
COURT: Northern District of California APPOINTED: 2002, by President Bush LAW SCHOOL: State University of New York-Buffalo School of Law AGE: 57 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None Jeffrey White had been on the bench more than three months by the time his investiture rolled around. He probably wished it had come sooner. The entrances to the federal building were congealed with protesters. Police formed a phalanx to cut a hole in the crowd, shuttling guests through. The legal community’s who’s who was dressed to the nines to formally welcome the Northern District’s newest judge, and they had to be separated from the thrashing protesters by a blue line of police in riot gear. As much fighting as there is about President Bush’s judicial nominees, the crowd wasn’t there that day to protest White, but the war in Iraq. With the imprimatur of support from a bipartisan selection committee, White sailed through the battles lines over Bush’s judicial nominees in the same way his investiture snuck through the war protest. White says he is nonpolitical, that many have mistaken him for a Democrat. He says he never did any political fund raising and was asked no “litmus test” questions during the vetting process. And while Bush’s first nominee to the Northern District says the political process was a “roller coaster,” at least from the outside it looked smooth. On the bench, White is all business, taking a practical approach to managing cases. He talks about serving the lawyers, almost as if his is a subservient role. “When I come into court, I say, literally or figuratively, ‘How can I help you?’” White said. White is one of just two judges in the Northern District to issue tentative rulings; the other is Ronald Whyte, in San Jose. “Rather that having open-ended arguments,” he said, “I specify the questions that I would like to have answered and I will set time limits.” He admits that the time limits (usually around 20 minutes for each side) aren’t always observed. One way to get on his bad side is to come into court without having conferred with opposing counsel about how to proceed. Doing so is part of his standing orders. He said he will also query lawyers on exactly how many depositions are needed and will reduce the number if he doesn’t think there is a need for more. It’s more economical that way, and White displays an interest in getting cases resolved quickly. “When you’re an advocate you’re seeing your client’s side of things,” White said. “What you’re not looking at is how to solve the parties’ problem in the most limited or economical way.” Demonstrating his practical approach, White recently issued a tentative ruling kicking a case out to another district. But one of the questions he wanted addressed was: which district’s docket was more congested? There are signs he is still fairly new at this. The other day, one federal public defender reminded him to ask a defendant if the signature on the plea application was indeed the signature of the defendant. Though he is interested in managing cases efficiently, that does not mean he isn’t flexible. Last week, he offered a lawyer with scheduling conflicts a hearing later than his normal calendar. He then told the lawyer that if she were going to be late, to “just send word and we’ll wait for you.” He taught a civil trial advocacy class at Boalt Hall School of Law for 20 years. (He took this semester off to acclimate himself to the bench, but said he would like to return.) He has represented several high-profile clients in litigation and done white-collar defense work. Early in his career, he served in the Justice Department’s labor racketeering sector and was criminal chief of the District of Maryland. Much of his career was spent at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, where he once headed the litigation department. Eleanor Swift, a colleague from Boalt, said that despite an enormously successful career, White’s ego has not grown with his accomplishments. “I would have expected Jeff to be extremely concerned about the rights of the litigants and how those rights are being represented by the lawyers,” Swift said. She said that translates into a judge whose role “would not be an imperious role, but a facilitative role.” You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges at www.therecorder.com/profiles.html or by calling 415-749-5523.

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.