Last week, Judge James T. Giles, senior judge and former chief judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, resigned from the bench after almost thirty years, to become Of Counsel at a law firm in Philadelphia.
I had the privilege and honor of clerking for Judge Giles from 1998-2000 (the early stages of his stint as chief). Judge Giles did not have the national cache of a SCOTUS Justice, nor was he the sort of judicial rock star that made our long-lost A3G swoon. He was, instead, a “lawyer’s judge,” exemplifying what makes a good trial-court judge: smart, pragmatic, caring, and quite at ease working in close quarters with lawyers and parties. He also was about the nicest, most humble person you ever will meet holding a position of power. His were the most pleasant chambers to work in–relaxed, friendly, and very thoughtful. Giles frequently would walk into the clerks’ area to sit and chat about just about anything.
Best of all, much of what I bring to my civil procedure class on the nuts-and-bolts workings of the pre-trial process I learned from working in his chambers.