This didn’t take long. Judge L.T. Senter Jr. on Friday denied motions by State Farm to disqualify one of his law clerks, Jerry Read. State Farm made the motions in two cases, Broussard v. State Farm and Guice v. State Farm. Here is a pdf for the first, and here is one for the second. (They are the same except for a different caption).
If you take a look at these very short documents, and please, if you care to, refer back to my posts here and here last week to look at State Farm’s briefing, you will notice one thing. The briefing was pretty good, it made some specific allegations of fact, it cited some law, it did a good job of analyzing the law. Then when you look at Judge Senter’s opinions, all he says is he is satisfied there is no appearance of impropriety because Read was segregated from cases involving his own insurer, Allstate, which he was suing. Read, said Senter, worked only cases from other insurers like State Farm and Nationwide, while Senter’s other law clerk worked on Allstate cases.
Two things. First, State Farm said the appearance of impropriety arose out of the common issues between Read’s Allstate case and the Broussard and Guice cases against State Farm, and that it could be perceived that Read has a self-interest in viewing the law a particular way in one case, because it would help him in another. A plausible allegation. State Farm did not say the appearance of impropriety arose out of Read’s work on Allstate cases.
Second, as a litigator this drives you crazy, when you do a good job of raising a substantive issue and brief it well, maybe stay up pretty late to do it, and then the judge just, in effect, walks by like he doesn’t recognize you, especially when the other side turns in some opposition brief that took about six minutes to write. The least you expect is for the judge to engage your factual and legal arguments. Doesn’t mean the judge will agree with you, but you at least want the respect of having someone say why they think you’re wrong.