The Senate unanimously confirmed Washington lawyer Richard Taranto to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Monday, more than 17 months after he was first nominated for the position and more than a year after his confirmation hearing.
The nomination of Taranto, a name partner at the D.C. firm Farr & Taranto, never faced much opposition but got caught up in election-year politics last year. The Senate voted 91-0 for the specialist in intellectual property and patent law, who has argued 19 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and taught patent issues at Harvard Law School.
The Federal Circuit is a court of national jurisdiction that hears a range of cases, including patent and trademark disputes, international trade matters and veteran claims cases. Taranto takes the bench spot left vacant almost three years ago, when Judge Paul Michel retired in May 2010.
Obama's previous selection for the slot, Edward Dumont of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, languished in the Senate for 16 months before withdrawing his name from consideration. DuMont would have been the first openly gay federal appeals court judge.
Since then, two more vacancies have opened up on the Federal Circuit with Judge Richard Linn taking senior status in October and Judge William Bryson taking senior status in January, according to the U.S. Courts. President Barack Obama nominated Raymond Chen and Todd Hughes for those spots in February.
At his confirmation hearing in February 2012, Taranto spoke mainly about his experience and ducked many of the questions on the Defense of Marriage Act and whistleblower litigation, saying it would be unfair to litigants in future cases who might sense they have an advantage.
Taranto joined the Washington firm Onek, Klein & Farr in 1984. [Former Justice Department antitrust division leader and New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein started the firm.] Taranto left after a couple of years to join the U.S. Solicitor General's office. He returned to the firm in 1989.
In addition to clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Taranto also served as a clerk for Judge Robert Bork of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Since 2009, Taranto has served as a member of the Appellate Rules Advisory Committee for the United States Judicial Conference.