RIAA lawyer up for judge position sparks concern over impartiality

Lawyer Katherine B. Forrest was recently recommended by NY senator Chuck Schumer (D) as a potential new federal judge within the state’s Southern District Court, which covers cases in Manhattan, White Plains and Middletown.

A 20-year veteran in the field, Forrest handled IP law for a private firm before being appointed (.pdf) Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. However, some worry her past as a litigator representing the RIAA against recently dismantled music sharing site Limewire may color future rulings if her nomination is approved.

Forrest’s ascension from the floor to the bench (pending approval) wouldn’t mark the first time a record industry attorney made such a transition.

Earlier this year president Barack Obama chose Donald Verrilli – a lawyer who most memorably handled the case against now-defunct P2P site Grokster – as the next U.S. Solicitor General. Last month it was uncovered that Judge Beryl Howell of the Washington, D.C. District Court had previously worked as an RIAA lobbyist. Howell’s ruling in a case pitting movie studios against pirates favored the plaintiffs — some said unfairly so.

Forrest’s earlier work for the RIAA might be cause for concern, specifically among those who fear her history could render impartial rulings an impossibility. But considering how commonplace the practice of moving from one end of the legal spectrum to another is (and mostly without incident), it’s also fair to believe she would rule justly and without bias on all cases. (Via TechDirt)

How do you feel about former lawyers who’ve represented Big Media becoming judges or holding other positions of power within government? Can they truly level fair opinions despite the apparent conflict of interest? Let us know in the comment section.