Eleventh Circuit chief judge may delay senior status
2:13 pm, February 4th, 2013
The chief judge of the federal appeals court based in Atlanta said Monday that he may not take senior status on Aug. 1 if the president and the Senate have not filled two Georgia-based vacancies on the court.
The Daily Report and other news outlets reported Friday that Chief Judge Joel Dubina of the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would enter the federal judiciary’s version of semi-retirement on Aug. 1. Dubina couldn’t be reached Friday, but the website of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said Dubina’s seat would be vacant on that date because he would take senior status.
But on Monday, Dubina told the Daily Report that the Administrative Office may have acted too soon. He said he had notified Chief Justice John Roberts that he would relinquish the title of chief judge on Aug. 1 and planned to take senior status that day. He said Roberts needed to know because the chief judge chairs the U.S. Judicial Conference, on which circuit court chief judges serve.
But Dubina said taking senior status “is not a done deal until you tell the president,” an action he has not made yet because of the delay in filling the two Georgia-based seats on the Eleventh Circuit.
President Obama has twice nominated Atlanta litigator Jill Pryor to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Judge Stanley Birch in August 2010, but she has been blocked by Georgia’s senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. Another seat was vacated last summer by Judge J.L. Edmondson, who took senior status.
Dubina, who was appointed in 1990 and whose seat is based in Alabama, said he didn’t want to leave his colleagues “in the lurch” with only nine active judges.
He recalled early in his appellate career when the court had several vacancies and only nine judges—with about half the caseload of today. “Nine judges is extremely difficult,” he said, noting that the court suspended its rules requiring two Eleventh Circuit judges on each three-judge panel. Instead the court allowed only one Eleventh Circuit judge on a panel, joined by two visiting judges—a solution that risked the consistency of the court’s precedents, he said.