As attorneys, we here at LawNewz.com are a little particular when it comes to proper terminology, specifically when it comes to basic court lingo. So you can imagine our collective ears buzzing when CNN Supreme Court reporter Pamela Brown said in the voice over of a taped package that rumored potential Supreme Court pick Judge Thomas Hardiman serves on the bench for the Third District, not the Third Circuit (it’s the last sentence of the package, which you can watch in the player above).
So what’s the big deal? Circuit Courts are appeals courts, designated by number, such as the Third Circuit or the Tenth Circuit (except for Washington, D.C. which is the D.C. Circuit), and District Courts are trial courts, designated by state or region within a state (e.g. District of New Jersey, Western District of Kentucky). So in the federal court system, there is no such thing as the Third District. Seriously, just writing this is making me feel like a hardcore Trekkie hearing Captain Kirk referred to as “Commander,” and I’m not even sure what that means.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, Brown should know better. At the very least, with all the buzz that Judge Hardiman has had in the legal world lately, she should at least know where he currently works. If this was a live on-air segment, I’d cut her some slack, since everyone slips up from time to time. But this was a pre-taped package where she was able to follow a script and get it right, and then watch it back during an editing process. No excuse there.
Sure, to harp on this sort of thing may be a little petty, but when you’re court geeks like us, this stuff matters. Brown is a terrific reporter, so a gaffe like this was pretty surprising.