Bar News - January 15, 2014
Court News: New Federal Judge Expects Sharp Learning Curve
By: Kristen Senz
Former federal magistrate Landya McCafferty was sworn in as a lifetime US District Court judge last month by her predecessor, Judge Steven McAuliffe, whose seat behind the bench she officially assumed on Dec. 18, though McAuliffe continues hearing cases on senior status.
McCafferty, a Portsmouth resident who had served as a magistrate judge since 2010, became the first female judge ever appointed in the District of New Hampshire. Originally from Spartanburg, South Carolina, she earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1984 and attended Northeastern University School of law in 1991.
Prior to McCafferty’s appointment as a magistrate judge, she served as disciplinary counsel in the NH Attorney Discipline Office from 2003 to 2010, and as a staff attorney with the NH Public Defender Program from 1995 to 2003. She worked in private practice as a litigation associate at the McLane firm from 1993 to 1994. She served as law clerk for Judge A. David Mazzone of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts from 1994 to 1995, and as a law clerk for Judge Norman H. Staahl during his service on the US District Court for the District of New Hampshire from 1991 to 1992, and on the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit from 1992 to 1993.
Bar News recently caught up with Judge McCafferty to ask her a few questions about herself and her perspectives on her new role.
When you were clerking for Judge Stahl more than 20 years ago, did you imagine yourself one day becoming a US District Court judge?
No, I did not. I loved my clerkship with Judge Stahl and I certainly looked up to him as a mentor. I still do. At that time in my life, I aspired to be a good trial lawyer.
What are your hobbies?
Photography and sports. I played softball and basketball in college. Today, my favorite sport is touch football, and I enjoy playing pick-up basketball when not suffering from old age.
Are you married?
Yes. My husband and I met while teaching at St. Paul’s School in Concord, and we married there the summer after we met (1986). I went to law school in 1988. My husband has spent his entire career as a high school teacher.
Do you have children?
Yes. Two daughters, one is 16 years old and the other is 11 years old.
What are your thoughts about being the first female judge to serve in the District of New Hampshire?
I am honored to take the bench with that distinction. Public confidence in the judicial system is enhanced when the make-up of the judiciary reflects the citizens it serves.
What advice do you have for practitioners about how to be a more effective advocate – in pleadings?
Simplify: less is always more in pleadings.
Be authentic. The jury appreciates a lawyer whom they sense is sincere, not putting on airs.
What are some of the ways you use technology as a judge?
I read and annotate all briefs, motions, and pleadings on an iPad.
What’s your favorite app or device?
I am currently enjoying an application that makes it possible for me to dictate a memo on my phone (Dictamus), import that dictated audio file to my computer, and convert that audio file to a text file (using an app called Dragon Dictate).
Do you have any tech tips for attorneys who practice before you?
Do not try every new application and/or productivity tool. Pick one application/tool that works for you and master it. And, if technology does not make you a better, more effective, lawyer, do not use it.
What do you consider the most difficult aspect of your job?
Since I spent my career as a trial lawyer in state rather than federal court, I found the learning curve quite steep as a federal magistrate judge. The same will be true as I take on the role of district judge.
Anything else you would like to add?
I am grateful for the support of so many members of the New Hampshire Bar throughout the nomination and confirmation process.