President Biden will get another opportunity to make a key judicial appointment on what is considered the second most important federal court.
Judge David Tatel of the DC Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has announced he is stepping down from full-time service on the bench. He will take senior status, meaning a reduced caseload.
He joins Merrick Garland—Biden’s nominee for Attorney General—in planning to leave the bench. That powerful court is considered something of a professional stepping-stone to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh—along with the late Justices Scalia and Ginsburg—served on that appeals court, which hears many important cases dealing with congressional laws and executive actions.
The DC Circuit currently has 7-4 majority of Democratic-appointed full-time judges. Three of the GOP-appointed judges were named by President Trump: Gregory Katsas, Neomi Rao, and Justin Walker. That court has issued a number of judicial setbacks to Trump-era policies on immigration, the environment, and other executive actions.
Biden could have more opportunities to make his mark on the federal courts—about a third of federal appeals court judges nationwide are eligible to step down from-full time service.
Tatel was named to the appeals court by President Clinton in 1994, taking Ginsburg’s old seat. He is legally blind.