If I Could Put Time In A Bottle
Apr. 6, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — 1992 was an election year. Bill Clinton was running against President George H.W. Bush (41). The Democrats controlled the Senate.
On April 7, 1992,* President Bush nominated me to become a federal district judge. Nebraska’s two U.S. Senators (Jim Exon and Bob Kerrey) were members of the Democratic Party. Senator (now Vice-President) Joe Biden was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On May 14, 1992, the Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on my nomination as well as the nominations of three other judges. My nomination was reported favorably on May 21, 1992. I was confirmed that day by unanimous consent of the Senate.
Before becoming a U.S. Magistrate Judge in 1987, I had been a nominal Republican. Apparently, I was well regarded in some legal circles. The ABA gave me a unanimously well-qualified report card despite the fact that I had been a hick lawyer. But, in truth, there was nothing special about me.
2016 is an election year. We can’t be certain who will be selected to succeed President Obama. The two U.S. Senators from Nebraska (Deb Fisher and Ben Sasse) are Republicans. The Republicans control the Senate.
President Obama nominated Bob Rossiter on June 11, 2015. Rossiter’s nomination came 21 months after my wonderful colleague, Judge Joe Bataillon (appointed by President Clinton), announced his plans to move to senior judge status, and ten months after the state’s U.S. senators recommended Rossiter to the President. (Then-Senator Mike Johanns participated with Senator Fisher in the recommendation, and, after his retirement, Senator Ben Sasse joined with Senator Fisher.)
This is what President Obama said about Rossiter:
Robert F. Rossiter, Jr., is a partner at Fraser Stryker PC LLO in Omaha, Nebraska, where he specializes in labor and employment litigation, primarily in federal court. He joined the law firm as an associate in 1983, was made a shareholder in 1987, and has served on the firm’s Management Committee since 2011. Prior to joining Fraser Stryker, Rossiter served as a law clerk to the Honorable C. Arlen Beam of the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska [later to become U.S. Circuit Judge] from 1982 to 1983. Rossiter is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and is the immediate past State Chair of that organization. He also is the President-Elect of the Nebraska State Bar Association. Rossiter received his J.D. cum laude from Creighton University School of Law in 1981 and his B.S. from Purdue University in 1978.
The White House, Office of the Press Secretary (June 11, 2015).
Like me, Bob was a nominal Republican. He contributed small amounts of money to candidates from both parties. I know of no one who thinks Bob should not become a federal district judge. He is a trial lawyer’s trial lawyer. He is also universally regarded as an especially decent guy.
The District of Nebraska ranks 7th in the nation and 2nd in the Circuit for the number of felony criminal cases. We handle 201 criminal cases per active district judge, and nationally the number is 105. We rank 7th in the nation and 2nd in the Circuit for supervised release hearings. We handle 95 supervised release hearings per active district judge, and nationally the number is 36. We have only three active district judge spots for the entire state. We have been without our third active district judge for 18 months, yet our statistics are computed as if we had three active district judges on board.
Despite the then recent Bork and Thomas debacles, in May of 1992, some 24 years ago, I was confirmed. I was treated fairly by the political party that controlled the Senate even though it was a Presidential election year. If I could put time in a bottle the first thing I’d like to do is return to May of 1992.
Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)
*Prior to the formal nomination, President Bush made a practice of placing a telephone call to ask whether the nominee would accept the nomination. It was an unbelievably gracious thing to do that was typical of President Bush, and one that I am sure remains burned into the memories of those who received such calls. Per instructions from the famed White House telephone operator, my call was supposed to happen on April Fool’s Day. However, the President was apparently busy on April 1, 1992 as the seven wealthiest nations were announcing an agreement on a $24B aid package for the former USSR. My call came the next day.