Judge David Sentelle’s last day as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was Monday, leaving a fourth vacancy on the 11-judge panel for President Barack Obama to try to fill during his second term.
Sentelle, a Reagan appointee in 1987 and the chief judge since 2008, is moving to senior status and still plans to be a common sight around the courthouse. In his resignation letter to the White House in October, Sentelle wrote: “It is my intention to render substantial judicial service as a senior judge."
Obama did not get any judges confirmed to the D.C. circuit during his first term, and his nomination of Caitlin Halligan has met with strong resistance from Republicans in the Senate.
When Obama was elected, there already was a vacancy on that court when John Roberts Jr. was elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. Since then, Judge Raymond Randolph took senior status in November 2008 and Judge Douglas Ginsburg also took senior status in October 2011.
Those are now long-standing vacancies. Obama chose Srikanth Srinivasan, principal deputy solicitor general of the United States, and Halligan, general counsel for the New York County District Attorney's office.
Srinivasan, nominated in June, has not had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nomination of Halligan has been twice returned to the White House, but the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on her nomination Thursday. On Tuesday, The American Constitution Society, a liberal policy group, urged the Senate to fill the vacancies on the D.C. Circuit.
“With four out of 11 judgeships open, the D.C .Circuit will be further crippled and divided,” ACS President Caroline Fredrickson said. “The Senate must make filling these vacancies a priority. Doing so could go a long way to restoring the ability of the federal government to respond to health, safety and other vital concerns that impact every American.”
Merrick Garland, appointed to the D.C. Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1997, will become the new chief judge. He was a partner at Arnold & Porter during the 1980s and early 1990s, and also worked as principal associate deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice.