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Eugene Sullivan led a double life while serving as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Passing final judgment on military appeals by day, Sullivan wrote a novel at night. “You lead other lives in novels, and I want to live as many lives as I can,” says Sullivan, who retired from the bench in 2002. Following the axiom that you should write what you know, Sullivan wrote a novel about judges. It took him more than five years and seven rewrites, but now The Majority Rules has been published by Forge, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, and Sullivan is on his way to a new career at age 63. Sullivan heads to Hollywood to shop the book as a movie next month. He has already signed on to write a sequel, and he is doing book signings; in February, he was at Howrey Simon Arnold & White where his son Gene is an intellectual property lawyer, and on March 22, he will be at Borders in Baileys Crossroads, Va. How can a novel about judges be attracting this kind of attention? The answer: These are not ordinary judges. The judges Sullivan writes about die of drug overdoses, have same-sex trysts over by the Iwo Jima Memorial, fix cases, keep their money in offshore accounts, have affairs with Justice Department lawyers, lobby each other, and make full use of escort services. And they all sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. So when Sullivan is asked how realistic the book really is, he laughs and says it isn’t. “Hey, don’t get me in trouble with the judges,” he says. But he also thinks the book speaks some truths about judges and human beings, and he unabashedly recommends that “anyone thinking about becoming a judge should read this book.” The public knows so little about judges, Sullivan says, in part because of media inattention. “Nobody watches the judges.” As a result, judges are allowed to be viewed — and view themselves — as demigods who can do almost anything they want to in their insulated world. “They’re not gods. They’re ordinary people,” says Sullivan. “They get along. They go along.” A chief judge who wants to persuade his colleagues to change their votes or wants to tinker with the random selection of judges on an appeals panel can probably do so, Sullivan says, by dispensing or withholding the small favors he or she controls. It happens often in his book, and could happen in real life. “There are judges who are in it for the power,” he says. And judges who vote oddly, Sullivan says, are rarely questioned inside or outside a court. In that scrutiny-free zone, case fixing of the sort he writes about in The Majority Rules could take place, Sullivan says. “People are flawed.” And that is an eye-opener in itself, he says, because “we have a system that depends on the quality of individual judges. It goes to the heart of the judicial system.” But that’s the end of the lecture; Sullivan, a round-faced Irish-American with an ever-present twinkle in his eye, is having fun, and he wants his readers to be entertained, not scandalized. “I’m not on a crusade,” he says. “I’m just trying to write authentic fiction, warts and all.” There was enough truth, and enough page-turning titillation, to interest a major publisher after numerous rejections — from agents as well as publishers — and subsequent rewrites. Sullivan, an avid reader for years — he kept James Michener novels in his rucksack as an Army Ranger — persisted. And there are authentic touches in the book. The chief justice in the book goes by the name of William Rehnquist, and the scenes relating to espionage ring true; Sullivan was once general counsel to the super-secret National Reconnaissance Office. Some of the appeals cases Sullivan describes are close to real disputes. Sullivan’s other gig in retirement has been the Gavel Consulting Group, in which he and other former federal judges, including Kenneth Starr and Stanley Sporkin, provide mediation, training, moot court, and other services. But clearly Sullivan is having most of his fun right now as an author gaining some attention. “I feel like a rock star in a small town in Iowa,” says the exuberant Sullivan. “When I retired, people said, ‘Why don’t you play golf and travel?’ I said no. If life begins at 60, like they say, I’m just starting.”

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