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Zimmerman's Research Guide



There are many directories of judges, including The Judicial Yellow Book and the Congressional Quarterly's Judicial Staff Directory. For more titles, see the list of Directories of Courts and Judges posted by the Goodson Law Library at Duke Law School.

You'll find at least one judicial directory in most larger law libraries, and considerable information is now available on court Web sites.

I have been asked to do research in the following areas:

Biographical Information: You can use the following sources to find biographical information on U.S. Federal, state and foreign judges.

U.S. Federal Judges: Sources for biographical information on Federal judges include -

    The American Bench - Most notable for its scope, The American Bench gives you basic information on almost all state and Federal judges. Copies of entries from back issues are available from the the publisher (1-800-328-5091) and from many larger law libraries, including the library of the New York County Lawyers Association (212-267-6646), which has volumes back to 1977.

    The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary - This key source provides not only biographical facts but also detailed evaluations of Federal judges, based on interviews with lawyers who have appeared before the judges. A current copy is available in many medium and large law libraries. The Almanac is also available by subscription through the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary website and through Intelliconnect. An abbreviated editions without the attorney evaluations is available on Westlaw (AFJ). For retired judges: The online subscription systems have an Archives section. Otherwise, call the publisher to get copies of old entries (877-529-5427; ask for the editorial staff).

    Benchmark Judges: The Benchmark Judges database, part of Benchmark Litigation, provides biographical information and attorney evaluations of U.S. District Court judges that are similar to the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary. Covers fewer judges than the Almanac, but arguably provides more insight into the judges covered.

    Who's Who in American Law - Gives one-paragraph blurbs on prominent state and Federal judges. The New York Public Library and many other large public libraries keep superseded editions. You can get copies from the NY Public through their NYPL Premium Services document delivery service (212-592-7200).

Additional sources of biographical information include:

  1. The Federal Judicial Center posts biographies for all presidentially-appointed Federal Judges since 1798 (note: Magistrate Judges are not appointed by the president);
  2. Judgepedia, which links to official bios including otherwise private Linkedin Profiles and allows for commentary from both inside and outside the legal community;
  3. The anonymous ratings and comments posted in The Robing Room;
  4. Subscribers can get basic judicial bios from Bloomberg Law. The bios aren't always complete or even accurate, but you get good links to news articles, opinions too if you want them (pull up a docket and then click on the judge's name);
  5. Look in the Civil Justice Reform Act Reports to see if a Federal judge has any motions pending more than six months, a bench trial undecided for mores than six months, a bankruptcy or social security appeal pending more than six months or any civil cases pending for more than three years. You can get older reports by logging in to the Pacer Case Locator and clicking on the "Statistics" tab at the top, right of the page.
  6. Ravel Law provides statistics on individual judges and identifies relevant positions in the judge's opinions.
  7. Westlaw a Litigation History Report and a Judicial Motion Report for Federal district and bankruptcy court judges (under Find a Person on the Site Map page). These tells you the number and types of cases the judge has been assigned and how the judge has ruled on several common types of motions. You could do this yourself by running a well-constructed search in the relevant docket and motions databases, but it would take a lot of time.
  8. If you have a subscription, Monitor Suite provides colorful charts of the various types of cases heard by a judge;
  9. If you have a subscription, TRAC's Federal Judges database tells you what kind of cases a judge has handled, how long it took to handle the case and how the case came out.

For more information about a Federal judges, search databases of legal news and/or cases to get the judge's published opinions. To be very thorough, search a docket database (see "Docket Sheets") and pull the judge's orders. See also the sections on "Reversals and Motions" and "Salaries," below.

U.S. State Judges: The central print source for information on U.S. State Judges is the American Bench, discussed above. Some states have their own judicial directories, which are discussed in the entries for individual states. Also check out the relevant court Web site and search news databases from the judge's home state.

Judgepedia and the Courthouse Forum cover state court judges. See also the sections on "Reversals and Motions" and "Salaries," below.

Foreign Judges: The same company that publishes The American Bench also publishes The Canadian Bar, The Mexican Bar and The International Bar. If you don't have access to their books, call them (1-800-328-5091), and they will provide telephone reference for a small fee. Other than that, try searching foreign news databases and see what you can find on the Internet using at least two good search engines.

Commissioners and Magistrates: United States Commissioners were appointed to assist the Federal judiciary from the 1790s until 1968. For more information about Commissioners, see "A History of the Development of the Office of United States Commissioner and Magistrate Judge System," 1999 Fed. Cts. L. Rev. 4 and/or "The Origin and Development of the United States Commissioner System," 14 Am. J. Legal Hist. 1 (1970).

The Federal Magistrates Act of 1968 (82 Stat. 1107) replaced Commissioners with Magistrates. For more information on Magistrates, visit the Federal Judicial Center and click on the "Magistrate Judgeships" link.

Dissents and Concurrences: You can identify cases where a certain judge writes a dissenting opinion by searching the format: sy(judge's last name +s dissent!) in the relevant database on Westlaw. To identify cases where the judge wrote or joined the dissent use the format: sy(judge's last name /s dissent!).

For concurrences, replace "dissent!" with "concur!"

Financial Disclosure Statements: If you care how a judge makes his or her money, you may be able to look up the judge's Financial Disclosure Statement on Judicial Watch. If the judge isn't listed, you can file a Form AO 10A, including advance payment for copy charges, with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington, D.C. The form is posted at www.uscourts.gov/FormsAndFees/Forms/CourtForms.aspx. Caveat: The judge will be notified of your request.

Also of note: I have heard that judges are not required to provide information, and often they don't.

Ethics Rules: See "Legal Ethics."

Nominations and Confirmations: The names of attorneys nominated by the President or confirmed by the Senate to serve as Federal Judges are posted by the U.S. Senate and Thomas, which provides the status of the nomination. This information is also posted on a subscription-based Web site called "Your Nation's Courts Online" by CQ Press, along with brief biography of the nominees and contact information for newly confirmed judges. Note: These sources may not include Magistrate Judges.

Reversals and Motions: You can find cases where a particular trial court judge has been reversed on appeal by pulling a Judicial Reversal Report on Westlaw (under Find a Person on the Site Map page). Or you can create the equivalent yourself by searching the relevant database of appellate court cases on Lexis or Westlaw. A post on the Law-Lib listserv on 12/29/99 by Kathy Skinner (crediting Wilson Addo, Laura Olsen Duggan and Steve Whiteside for the information) says that: "On Westlaw, the search would be sy(name & reversed). On Lexis, the search would be history(name) and disposition(revers! or modif!)."

Look in the semi-annual Civil Justice Reform Act Reports (Table 8) to see if a judge has taken more than six month to decide any motion.

Salaries: The Federal Judicial Center posts the salaries of U.S. Federal court judges. The Judicial Salary Tracker provides salary information for U.S. state court judges.

See Also
Bar Admission
Law Firms
Legal Ethics
State Courts
United States Courts, generally

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman