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COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California APPOINTED: 1990, by President George Bush DATE OF BIRTH: 1951 LAW SCHOOL: Stanford Law School, 1980 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: None Federal court Judge David Levi could go anywhere. The Ninth Circuit, even the U.S. Supreme Court, are within the capabilities of this brilliant and busy scholar, say associates of the Republican appointee. “David Levi would make a great court of appeals judge. He would make a great Supreme Court judge,” said Lee Rosenthal, a district court judge from Texas who served with Levi on the Judicial Conference’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rules, which Rosenthal now chairs. “I certainly hope, when and if openings arise, that the stars line up. But David is too smart to spend his time speculating or worrying about those kinds of uncontrollable factors. He’s too busy spending his considerable energies and talent.” A 1990 George Bush appointee, Levi has set for himself a workload that would stagger most mere mortals. As current chair of the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, Levi oversees the entire federal rule making conducted by the Judicial Conference, the body charged with revising and crafting rules and practice for approval by the Supreme Court. He is also the current president of the Ninth Circuit District Judges Association who has for the past two years coordinated the association’s annual conference. As a federal district judge in Sacramento, he has ruled on everything from open primaries to Indian gaming. He’s also a member of the American Law Institute and served as an adviser for the institute’s code revision project. “I’m working all the time,” admits Levi. Levi’s pedigree is a scholarly one. His father, Edward Hirsch Levi, was Gerald Ford’s attorney general, but before that he served as dean of the University of Chicago Law School. David Levi’s maternal uncle was legal scholar Bernard Meltzer. His older brother Julian is a law professor, while his younger brother is a physicist. “Even in really complex cases, he can size up the case fairly quickly and focus on the critical issues in every stage of the proceedings,” said Benjamin Wagner, chief of the U.S. attorney’s Special Prosecutions Unit in Sacramento. Norman Hile, an attorney with Orrick, Herrington & Suttcliffe in Sacramento, recalls Levi hearing a request for a preliminary injunction that involved “some very complex computer software.” Levi, he says, “understood the software and the way in which it was delivering information much more than I did,” said Hile, who describes Levi as “one of the great judges in the country.” “He’s very patient,” added Hile. “He’s done his homework, and he’s way ahead of everybody else.” Levi’s keen intellect leaves little room for courtroom histrionics, says Carolyn Delaney, an executive assistant U.S. attorney who recently tried a methamphetamine case in front of the judge. “He seizes on the issue immediately, so there’s not a lot of posturing that needs to go on, because he gets it. He’ll listen, but he’s not a guy [for whom] pounding on the desk and being loud is going to get you anywhere. You just make your point, and that’s it.” A former U.S. attorney whose career included prosecution of state legislators accused of selling their votes for campaign contributions, Levi enjoys turning his attention to “really significant cases.” Attorneys and fellow judges say he hews closely to the law. “He has a real concern about the fairness of the situation, but he’s going to follow the law despite it causing an unfair result if that’s what the law requires,” said Matthew Jacobs, a former U.S. attorney who is now a partner with Downey Brand in Sacramento. It’s that intense interest in the crafting of law and rules of procedure that has led Levi to dedicate so much time and effort to federal rule making. As chair of the conference’s Advisory Committee on Civil Rules, Levi helped put together new rules affecting discovery and class actions that went into effect last December. “It’s very important work and it’s complicated work and it’s interesting work,” said Levi. “It involved some pretty fundamental questions one deals with all the time, such as finality, such as the scope of discovery in the civil arena.” As chair of the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, Levi will oversee the work of five different rule-making committees, including some pioneering rules on e-discovery, that is currently circulating for comment. He will also oversee the Appellate Rules Committee’s overview on the citation of non-precedential decisions. The Ninth Circuit currently does not allow such citations; the Federal Judicial Center is in the midst of a study to determine whether allowing them would unduly burden federal courts. On the bench in Sacramento, Levi’s cases range from relatively mundane questions of tax evasion to such matters as the state’s right to reduce the Medi-Cal reimbursement rates paid to health care providers. Through it all, Levi maintains a cordial, respectful courtroom where even veteran attorneys are struck by the judge’s respect for jurors — in particular, his courteous thanks to them for their service. During voir dire, Levi tells jurors who have long-planned previous commitments that they can get out of jury duty — if they promise to return to serve. He says most of them do. “I very much respect the citizens that have come in my career and served as jurors,” said Levi, who remains in the juror pool for superior court duty. “What a jury does is insert communal judgment where we don’t have legal rules. It’s a very good thing.”

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