Amusements Off the Bench: The Hobbies of Judge Clarkson

By J. Scott Bovitz, Bovitz & Spitzer

I have been interviewing bankruptcy judges about their hobbies. Don’t laugh. I know what you are thinking. “Bovitz, you could interview every one of the 352 authorized bankruptcy judges about their hobbies ... and not find enough material for one Chapter 8 Humor column.” However, you would be mistaken.

For example, take Hon. Scott C. Clarkson of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California. He is a serious ocean-boating enthusiast. While waiting for the sea levels of the Pacific Ocean to rise a few miles inland to Judge Clarkson’s front yard, he rides around the California coast in his 42-foot Grand Banks twin diesel trawler christened the “Stary Decisis.”

With a smile, Judge Clarkson gifts baseball caps to his guests with “Stary Decisis” embroidered across the front, and with the U.S. Supreme Court citation to Stern v. Marshall embroidered on the side. He tells the story of how Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy became the proud wearer (and owner) of one of these hats during his 2015 visit to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in San Diego.

But isn’t boating dangerous? In 1675, Chaplain Henry Teonge of Britain’s Royal Navy recorded how two “fryers and an attendant ... prayed halfe an houre ... and sprinkled [his ship] all over with holy water” to protect the boat and crew.

Earlier this year, the modern “Captain Clarkson” took six Buddhist monks (visiting from Thailand) on a Los Angeles harbor cruise. After introducing the monks to the Clarkson family guacamole recipe, the monks blessed the boat with Buddhist chants. As Judge Clarkson quips, “I have this all on iPhone video, so I’m covered for any future potential boating disasters.”

But boating is not Judge Clarkson’s only hobby. In his bankruptcy courtroom, a lawyer stands the risk of sanctions for mispronouncing “Hasselblad” (the name of the Swedish camera manufacturer).

Judge Clarkson, who has been an ABI member since 1999 and has previously served as the judicial chair for ABI’s Bankruptcy Battleground West conference, graciously agreed to answer a few questions from Chapter 8 Humor about his serious photography hobby/alternative career.

Here is that interview as featured in the ABI JournalAmusements Off the Bench: The Hobbies of Judge Clarkson

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