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Want to Be a Federal Judge by Age 35? Follow Kozinski's Lead

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Top of your law school class? On the fast track to making partner? Don't expect us to be impressed. Real gunners become federal judges. Before they're 40.

Honestly, it shouldn't be that hard. At least according to the Ninth Circuit's resident conservative, porn aficionado, and cinephile, Judge Alex Kozinski. Kozinski, you may remember, was appointed to the Court of Federal Claims at the young age of 32. Follow his instructions and you could have the president calling you up for a spot on the federal courts, Kozinksi claims.

Ten Simple Steps to a Federal Judgeship

Almost twenty years ago, Kozinski promised bored lawyers a break from the tedium of "procrastiwriting" briefs by becoming a federal judge in ten easy steps. Yep, Kozinski writes listicles.

So, if you want to get a judgeship before your hair turns gray, Kozinski says to follow this advice, to the letter:

1. Decide Early
2. Get Into Politics
3. Don't Back a Loser
4. Work in D.C.
5. Befriend Your Senators
6. Be Bipartisan
7. Ask for Lots of Favors
8. Give Credit Where It's Due -- and When It's Not
9. Don't Disappoint
10. Be Persistent, Not a Pest

And Don't Forget the Baseball Metaphors

Have the judge's views on youthful success changed with age? After all, Kozinski was appointed when the Claims Court was first established, with President Reagan handing out 15 new black robes in one fell swoop -- not exactly an easily repeatable experience.

The blog Concurring Opinions tracked Kozinski down to ask him just that -- and he's standing by his advice. Indeed, had Judge Robert Bork followed these ten tips, he'd be Justice Bork now, according to Kozinski, and "getting Borked" would have a much different definition.

Though Kozinksi does have a few additions and clarifications for his rules. For one, potential judges should "try answering questions by using baseball metaphors." It seems to work in confirmation hearings, at least. Further, candor should be avoided. Kozinski gives three more rules, this time for getting by, candor-free, in Washington, D.C.:

1. Don't say it if you don't want to see it quoted in the Washington Post.
2. Don't do it if you don't want to be asked about it during your confirmation hearings.
3. If you can eat it and drink it in a single sitting, it's not a bribe.

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