Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, April 2, 2010


Page 1


Ninth Circuit Judge Kleinfeld to Take Senior Status


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld will take senior status June 12, his 65th birthday, the court disclosed yesterday.

Kleinfeld has been a Ninth Circuit judge since his appointment by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, placing him seventh in seniority among the 26 active judges.

In an e-mail to colleagues and staff, the judge wrote:

“It’s quite an honor and privilege to be able to serve your country as a federal judge. I appreciate the last 24 years and look forward to more.”

Prior to coming onto the Ninth Circuit bench, Judge Kleinfeld served as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska from 1986 to 1991, and as a part-time magistrate judge of that court from 1971 to 1974. His nominations to the district and appellate courts were opposed, in part, because of his involvement with anti-abortion groups.

The judge is a New York native who graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 1966 and from Harvard Law School in 1969. He clerked for Alaska Supreme Court Justice Jay Rabinowitz from 1969 to 1971, was admitted to the Alaska Bar in 1970, and practiced in Fairbanks, primarily in insurance defense, personal injury, and business litigation, prior to his appointment by President Reagan to the district bench.

He was president of the Tanana Valley Bar Association in 1976-77 and of the Alaska Bar Association in 1982-83.

Kleinfeld is generally regarded as a conservative jurist, with a libertarian bent. He authored the panel opinion in Morse v. Frederick, also known as the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case, holding that students had a First Amendment right to display a banner proclaiming what school authorities said was a pro-drug-use message across the street from a school after classes had been excused for the day.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed in 2007, saying the school had an overriding interest in presenting a consistent message that drug use is wrong and dangerous. 

His opinions in criminal cases have generally been in favor of upholding convictions and sentences, although he authored the panel opinion in United States v. Betts,  holding that the lower court erred in ordering a defendant to abstain from consuming alcohol as a condition of supervised release where nothing in the record suggests a relationship between the crime and alcohol consumption, or that the defendant abused alcohol in the past.

He dissented in Ramirez v. Castro, a 2005 case in which the panel held that a 25-year-to-life sentence under the Three-Strikes Law constituted cruel and/or unusual punishment where the current crime was a shoplifting offense, and the two prior “strikes” were the defendant’s only prior felony convictions and did not involve serious injury.

Kleinfeld argued the ruling was inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s 2004 ruling that upheld the Three-Strikes Law as applied in cases where the current strike was also a shoplifting-type offense.


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