In this eight-part interview, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, III, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit discusses his background, including: a race for Congress; clerking for Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and the value of humility; the confirmation process and the life and work of a federal appeals court judge; understanding the Court, interviewing its Justices and dispelling the mystery of the judiciary; the effectiveness of the “judicial power”; and reflecting on the rewards of a long life of public service.
“I think when judges sit on the bench — this applies at all levels — we don’t really think about ourselves as ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal.’ Those are labels that people apply to us. And . . . I understand why they do because you have to use short-hand. But, the interesting thing is, I don’t think most judges conceive of themselves as conservative or liberal. We think of ourselves as judges first and foremost and that the judicial calling is such an honorable calling. And when we get on the bench, you know, you’re just so focused on that one case. I mean, you don’t think, ‘Is this a conservative result?’ or ‘Is this a liberal result’ or ‘Which way is the law as a whole moving?’ You’re just thinking about those people before you and how much the case means to them. And our mindset when we go on the bench is, ‘this case is a universe unto itself.’”
(Fabrizio di Piazza)
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