Skip to comments.S.J. judge praised in ascent to federal court [Bush appointee ascends to 9th Circuit!]
Posted on 09/19/2003 11:58:07 AM PDT by LibWhacker
SACRAMENTO -- More than 400 people gathered Thursday to watch former San Joaquin County jurist Connie Callahan ascend to the post of federal judge, less than eight months after she was nominated to the position.
A host of San Joaquin County Superior Court judges, attorneys and court staffers joined Callahan's close friends and family Thursday as the diminutive legal star took her place on what is widely considered the most controversial court in the nation.
"Connie Callahan will make her decisions based upon the law regardless of controversy or what the public opinion will be," said Morrison England, judge of the U.S. District Court's Eastern District.
"Judge Callahan will always do what is right."
Colleagues lavished praise on Callahan, who for eight years prosecuted cases for the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office. From there, she was appointed a court commissioner, and she was elevated to the San Joaquin County Superior Court bench four years later.
In 1996, she was appointed to the state's 3rd District Court of Appeal, where she remained until she her confirmation to the federal bench in May.
"Part of the exciting thing about it is the challenging issues that come before the court," Callahan said. "You get cutting-edge legal issues, and as a judge and as an intellectual, it's very exciting to be interpreting the laws of this country." ::: Advertisement :::
The audience laughed uproariously at remarks made by retired Chief Justice Robert Puglia of the Third District Court of Appeal, who poked fun at the court's reputation in his remarks Thursday. Puglia noted Callahan's elevation meant she would have to relinquish the title of "justice" for the title "judge," "because as everyone knows, there is no justice on the 9th Circuit."
Sometimes, the court's rulings have stunned the public.
On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit postponed California's recall election, citing several counties' continued use of punch-card ballots as a potential risk to its outcome because of their high error rate. In the ruling, the court agreed the ballots increased the chance of voter disenfranchisement.
A further ruling from the full panel is imminent. And Callahan acknowledged it will be one of her first votes after Thursday's formal investiture.
"Everyone will be voting on it, and it will be soon," she said.
Last year, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit agreed with a Sacramento man that Pledge of Allegiance violated the Constitution when a 1954 federal law added "under God" to its text. It later revised its ruling, limiting the exclusion to recitation in schools, which led the Sacramento man to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Al Ellis of local law firm Hakeem, Ellis & Marengo also spoke on Callahan's behalf, dipping into San Joaquin County history to tell the story of the last judge elevated to a federal appellate court. The man, David Terry, had to resign his position to participate in a 19th-century duel, and several years later died in a shootout in Lathrop.
"It's took 140 years for another appellate judge to come from San Joaquin County," Ellis said. "There's two schools of thought on why. One is we're being punished for Mr. Terry's sins. The other is that the first qualified applicant was Ms. Callahan."
Callahan is up to the task placed before her, said professor John Sims of University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law.
"It seems to me that except for the rare situation where someone goes on to the Supreme Court of the United States, this is the pinnacle of someone's legal career," he said. "The ordinary responsibility of these judges is immense."
"It's all extra. She doesn't have to do any of that," he said.