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The Best Part of Being a Federal Judge Is Speaking Your Mind

If asked, judges often say they like their jobs for noble reasons.

They dispense justice and bring balance to the universal conflict of man, or something like that. Superman said it better.

But if you could get inside the head of a federal judge, you would find they really like being able to speaking their mind. As a lawyer, that's where you want to be.

Speaking Your Mind

When you have the job security of a federal judge, you can say just about anything and still keep your position. A judge just killed a presidential initiative, and what?

Of course, trial judges have to answer to appellate courts and administrative overseers. But for the most part, a federal judge is king or queen of the courtroom and anyone who goes there.

Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore is another example of a judge who speaks her mind. She wasn't happy with lawyers clogging her court with protracted litigation.

"The Court is in receipt of the parties' whiny letters," she wrote. "What is wrong with you parties/lawyers? Just STOP IT!"

On and Off the Court

Judicial canons place some limits on sitting judges, so they often tone down their commentary outside the courtroom. Once the robes come off, however, so do the gloves.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is an example. A conservative-turned-liberal, he came out in favor of legalizing marijuana and changing six of the constitutional amendments after he left the bench.

But Richard Posner, former judge of the U.S. Seventh Circuit, really knew how to speak his mind. Many considered him the most interesting judge in the world because of his sometimes spicy opinions -- including criticisms of the courts.

He has been learning the lessons of a litigator since he left the Seventh Circuit, however. He went to court on behalf of a pro se litigant, and the Fourth Circuit gave him a "backhanded dis" by denying his request to appear.

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