X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California APPOINTED: March 2002, by President Bush DATE OF BIRTH: Dec. 17, 1954 LAW SCHOOL: University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law, 1983 PREVIOUS JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE: Sacramento County Superior Court, 1997-2002; Sacramento County Municipal Court, 1996-97; United States Army Reserve, JAG Corps, 1988-2002 The parallels between the courtroom and the football field may not be obvious, but former New York Jets free agent-turned-U.S. district judge, Morrison England Jr., sees them. His experience training in the sweltering summer sun taught him to persevere — even through his heavy workload in the Eastern District of California, which reputedly has one of the highest caseloads in the nation. His work on the field, first as an offensive guard and then as a college coach at Cal State-Fullerton, taught him the incredible difference a mentor can make — a role he continues to play for law students and law clerks. England says those lessons are still relevant years after trading his jersey for a judge’s robes. “You can remember back to a game or a practice and you just think, ‘I don’t have anything left, I’m completely spent, and I can’t do anything more,’” England says. “Then the ball snaps, and you end up doing more.” That kind of commitment is evident in his courtroom, lawyers say. “He’s a no-nonsense judge, but entirely fair — exactly the kind of judge lawyers want to practice before,” said Steve Simpson, senior attorney for the public interest group Institute for Justice, which represented ForSaleByOwner.com in a 2004 case successfully challenging a California Department of Real Estate’s broker’s licensing requirement. “He’s someone who doesn’t suffer sloppiness, but he’s a just juror and a good guy.” He expects everyone to bring their best game. Attorneys, he says, should demonstrate “professionalism and civility.” They should keep their briefs succinct — “the word ‘brief,’ is used for a reason,” he notes — and woe to the attorney who tries to fob filing problems onto his clerical staff. “‘Well, judge, my secretary �’ If I hear that, I stop and say, ‘Excuse me, your secretary’s name is not on the top left corner of the page,’” England said. “If you are responsible, then you fall on the sword. It’s accountability. If I’m wrong and I make a mistake, I will tell the parties I am wrong, I apologize, and I correct it as soon as possible.” Elizabeth Dankof, a Sacramento attorney who represented three women last year in a case alleging false arrest and use of excessive force, remembers England as considerate to attorneys and jurors. “He was very concerned with the jury’s time,” she recalled. “The associate on the other side was young, like myself, and he was very considerate of the two of us.” England says he is reluctant to hold attorneys in contempt and can’t remember an instance of doing so. But he admits he’s a stickler for maintaining control in the courtroom and is especially bothered by attorneys who stipulate to provisions such as continuances without consulting him. “I say, ‘Wait a minute, the case authority is very clear — you do not change a scheduling order. Nope, we have a problem.’” With just three years on the federal bench, England has had few published decisions. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy. Rulings by England during his federal court tenure have upheld California’s limits on the sharing of financial information between banks, brokerages and insurers. In February 2004, England held a flea market owner accountable for copyright infringement in a case involving the sale of counterfeit CDs and cassettes ( UMG Recordings v. Sinnott, 02-2153). Last summer, England invalidated a timber sale in a remote area of the Tahoe National Forest on the grounds that logging would create a serious fire hazard ( Sierra Club v. Eubanks, 03-1238). But some of the judge’s most famous cases occurred during his tenure on the Sacramento County Superior Court bench. A mammoth criminal trial England presided over with four defendants and three juries turned up in Sacramento Bee reporter Gary Delsohn’s 2003 book “The Prosecutors.” But England’s most renowned ruling is Brosterhous v. State Bar of California, 12 Cal.4th 315, a 1999 superior court case that went up to the Supreme Court. England agreed with members of the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation that the State Bar had violated provisions of the 1990 Supreme Court case Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1, when it used mandatory member dues for ideological programs. The lengthy case was filed on behalf of 41 plaintiffs who claimed the Bar had misused the annual State Bar dues. Lawyers on both sides of the case still speak highly of how well the judge made sense of the complex issue. “He was generous with his time and heard out both sides,” recalled Mark Danis of Morrison & Foerster, who argued the case for the State Bar. “He carefully sifted through a voluminous amount of evidence and kept the case moving.” Deborah La Fetra, the PLF’s attorney, agreed. England “was more than fair and more than prepared,” she said. “This was a huge document case, and quite frankly, a lot of those documents were very boring. I really got a sense he had plowed through them all.” England himself says he has yet to write his best opinion. It’s part of where “the jock comes in” — the constant drive to improve, he says. “I don’t know that I will ever have done my best at this position. From my perspective, I don’t think I will ever stop learning.” — Jill Duman You can order past judicial profiles of more than 100 Bay Area judges at www.callaw.com 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.