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San Francisco's powerful U.S. appeals court gets new 'Big Sky' leader

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 9, 2014

For the past seven years, the face of the nation's largest federal appeals court has been Alex Kozinski -- a flamboyant, high-profile and sometimes controversial chief judge known for his love of video games, wide-ranging essays, unpredictable rulings and a long-ago appearance on the "Dating Game."

But there is now a new sheriff for the sprawling San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. And this one is an unassuming, soft-spoken judge from Big Sky country who by his own admission will be much quieter than the colorful Kozinski.

Meet Sidney Thomas, a Montana native who took over Dec. 1 as the influential chief judge of a court that shapes federal law for California and eight other Western states.

"The 9th Circuit deserves some panache, and he supplied it," Thomas said of his predecessor in an interview with this newspaper at the 9th Circuit's ornate San Francisco headquarters. "I don't think anyone can duplicate his style. But I've had fairly good preparation for the job."

The 61-year-old Thomas, appointed to the court in 1995 by former President Bill Clinton, becomes chief judge for a seven-year term under a complex seniority system that made him next in line. But to colleagues and the legal community, he is already established as one of the court's respected leaders.

Read the whole story at San Jose Mercury News


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