Bench Memos

Senior-Eligible Judges

The Senate will have the capacity to confirm lots of federal appellate judges in 2020. The only big question is whether there will be many vacancies. The answer to that question turns largely on how many sitting judges who are, or will soon be, eligible to take senior status (or retire) decide to do so.

In April, I identified the dozens of senior-eligible appellate judges. Since that time, six or so have taken senior status or announced their decision to do so. Given the likelihood that other judges will use the year-end holidays to reflect on whether they should follow suit, I figured I would update and republish the list so that you will see where vacancies might arise.

As before, I emphasize that I express no opinion on whether any particular judge should take senior status.

As a general rule, judges appointed by Democratic presidents are much less likely than judges appointed by Republican presidents to step down over the next few months. For that reason, I set forth the judges in two sets.

Here are the 29 appointees of Republican presidents who are (or, as noted, will soon be) eligible to take senior status:

D.C. Circuit: Henderson, Griffith (June 2020)

First Circuit: Torruella, Howard (November 2020)

Second Circuit: Hall

Third Circuit: Smith

Fourth Circuit: Niemeyer, Wilkinson, Agee (November 2020)

Fifth Circuit: Jones, Smith, Southwick, Owen (June 2020)

Sixth Circuit: Gibbons, Griffin

Seventh Circuit: Easterbrook, Flaum, Kanne, Rovner

Eighth Circuit: Benton, Loken, Shepherd

Ninth Circuit: Callahan, Smith, Ikuta (June 2020)

Tenth Circuit: Hartz

Federal Circuit: Lourie, Newman, Prost

And here is the list of 38 such appointees of Democratic presidents:

D.C. Circuit: Garland, Rogers, Tatel

First Circuit: Lynch, Thompson (August 2020 March 2021)

Second Circuit: Cabranes, Chin, Katzmann, Pooler

Third Circuit: Ambro, McKee

Fourth Circuit: Floyd, Gregory*, King, Motz, Keenan (March 2020)

Fifth Circuit: Dennis, Stewart

Sixth Circuit: Clay, Cole, Donald, Moore

Seventh Circuit: Wood

Ninth Circuit: Berzon, Fletcher, Gould, Graber, McKeown, Paez, Rawlinson, Thomas, Wardlaw

Tenth Circuit: Briscoe, Lucero

Eleventh Circuit: Wilson, Martin (August 2020)

Federal Circuit: Dyk, Wallach

* Gregory was recess-appointed to the Fourth Circuit by President Clinton but holds his lifetime position by virtue of President George W. Bush’s appointment.

Update (11/25): I have made two corrections to the list of appointees of Democratic presidents. I have removed James Wynn of the Fourth Circuit (he will not become senior-eligible until August 2022), and I have added Beverly Martin of the Eleventh Circuit.


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