The Washington Post

Judicial nominee’s brush with ‘Legally Blonde’

One judicial nominee watched "Legally Blonde" very carefully (Photo by Tracy Bennett). One judicial nominee watched “Legally Blonde” very carefully. (Photo by Tracy Bennett).

John Owens, President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the ninth circuit, might not be familiar to most people. But what if he were a character in the legal-themed rom-com “Legally Blonde”? He’d practically be famous.

Owens once feared he had been lampooned in the “Blonde” franchise. And with good reason — Amanda Brown, his former classmate at Stanford Law, penned the novel “One Elle” (the title is a play on  “1L,” Scott Turow’s classic book about law-school life), which was ultimately renamed after it was translated into the big screen as “Legally Blonde,” the story of an unlikely legal student, Elle Woods.

In an essay he wrote for Legal Times in 2001 (and reproduced here), Owens recalled hearing rumors that Brown was working on a “tell-all” about their class. He recounted watching the movie and reading the book with a feeling of dread, hoping he wouldn’t see himself reflected in any of the characters.

The movie contained nothing that alarmed him. But a character in the novel named “Johnno,” sounded a bit familiar to Owens, mostly because their names sound similar. Was he Johnno? He figured not, once he read that the character was “not the brightest bulb on the tree.”

But perhaps, he mused, portraying him as a dummy might be “Amanda’s poetic-license revenge?” To settle the question, he asked the author directly. Turns out, he failed to inspire any of her literary creations.

The lesson he drew from the experience was “not to wait until the big trial to treat someone well; start at the beginning.” You never know who’s noticing — and whether they’ll someday get a book deal.

The essay might have been forgotten, but it surfaced, we hear, as Owens submitted, as part of the vetting process, everything he’d ever written.

Who knows how the Senate will handle the slew of judicial nominees — including Owens — but it sounds like he’s more suited to  wearing black (as in a judge’s robe) rather than Elle Woods’s signature pink.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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