Cal. Litig. 2021, Volume 34, Number 3

A Lion in Winter: Senior Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace at 92

By Dan Lawton

Dan Lawton practices in the appellate and professional liability groups of Klinedinst PC in San Diego.

On a sunny August morning in 2021, I arrive at the chambers of Senior Ninth Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace in downtown San Diego. Wallace’s domain sits on the fourth floor of the federal courthouse on west Broadway. There is a warren of offices — separate quarters for three law clerks, a server room, and storage areas lined with shelves laden with briefs and excerpts of appellate records. The walls are clad in handsome wood paneling. The ceilings are 16 feet high. Two young male law clerks, speaking in hushed tones, greet me. They are dressed in suits and ties. In the carpeted aerie above Broadway, a librarial silence prevails.

The Judge greets me with an elbow bump and ushers me into his chambers. They are massive. The Judge reports, with a gleam in his eye that looks like pride, that they are larger than the Oval Office of the White House, by a margin of 100 square feet. The polished wood of the desktop is immaculate. The single object that rests atop it is a letter opener. No letters are visible.

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