What are Court of Appeals Judges' "duty stations"?
February 16, 2013 12:57 PM   Subscribe

The wikipedia page for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lists duty stations for all of the judges and googling suggest that these are where the judges have their chambers. But the same wikipedia article says that the Ninth Circuit meets only in San Francisco, Pasadena, Portland, and Seattle, while there are duty stations in several other cities. I know the judges have to travel some, but why would they have chambers in places where they never meet? And how are these duty stations decided? ie If a new judge is nominated, are they automatically assigned to the same duty station as the vacating judge or is it possible to move to a more desirable location by accumulating seniority?

I'm interested in how this works generally, not just for the Ninth Circuit.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld to Law & Government (7 answers total)
 
I think the judges do a lot of work individually, so maybe that is where their offices are when not meeting?

This says:

(e) The official duty station of a circuit judge shall be that place where a circuit or district court holds regular sessions at or near which the judge performs a substantial portion of his judicial work, or that place where the Director provides chambers to the judge where he performs a substantial portion of his judicial work, which is nearest the place where he maintains his actual abode in which he customarily lives.

posted by ghharr at 1:11 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


28 USC ยง 456 - Traveling expenses of justices and judges; official duty stations

(e) The official duty station of a circuit judge shall be that place where a circuit or district court holds regular sessions at or near which the judge performs a substantial portion of his judicial work, or that place where the Director provides chambers to the judge where he performs a substantial portion of his judicial work, which is nearest the place where he maintains his actual abode in which he customarily lives.
posted by Jahaza at 1:12 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Too slow!
posted by Jahaza at 1:12 PM on February 16, 2013


This forum thread, for instance, says that Second Circuit Senior Judge Guido Calabresi has his duty station and his chambers in New Haven, CT, but goes into NYC to the Court when it sits in the Fall.
posted by Jahaza at 1:20 PM on February 16, 2013


I think the last two clauses of 28 USC 456(e), quoted by both Jahaza and ghharr above, are the key to why you see Circuit judges with duty stations away from where the Circuit courts of appeals typically hear arguments. A newly appointed Judge will seek to have chambers assigned at a Federal courthouse near where he or she lives and the Director of the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts will work to accomodate that desire. Most of the work done by the Judges involves reading and writing, not attending hearings. The judge will travel to the city in which the court hears appeals for those days when there are hearings.

Remember, the salaries the judges make are fine, but not extravagant when compared to other very successful professionals. The judge will typically have deep roots in a locality by the time he or she is appointed. He or she likely has a nice house already and connections to local family and friends.

So, to take an example, Andrew Kleinfeld lived in Fairbanks, Alaska when he was appointed and confirmed and was given judicial chambers in that same city. Could he have tried to move to somewhere else in the Ninth Circuit? Maybe, but he already lived in Fairbanks, had a home and a life there, and his wife was a professor at the local university.
posted by Area Man at 3:25 PM on February 16, 2013


I have clerked for two federal appellate court judges.

Judges are generally distributed throughout the circuit. They'll just have their home offices (chambers) wherever they lived when they were appointed. If there's a federal courthouse there, they can have the chambers there. But if there's not, then some judges will just have chambers in regular office buildings. So for most of the time they (and their clerks and secretary) will be working out of that home base chambers.

But once a month (or so, depending on the circuit), the judges will come together at one of those locations like you mentioned for a week or so. During that week the judges need chambers out of which to work (since they're not hearing cases all day). (It's also important to note that while they're hearing cases for that month, judges and clerks are also getting ready to hear cases for the next month as well.)

So, for example, if an Eighth Circuit judge is based in Des Moines, Iowa, he'll work there for three weeks out of the month. But then he'll travel for court in St. Louis (where the Eighth Circuit is headquartered) and be there for a week. There will be chambers for all Eighth Circuit judges in the courthouse in St. Louis. But they're not particularly nice, since the judges spend most of their time away from those chambers anyway.

So yes, judges do have offices in locations where they're not actually based. But it allows for work to go on all the time rather than having to stop for weeks when the judges travel for court.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 3:25 PM on February 16, 2013


What everyone else said.

One small thing I'd add: there's a political component to where the judges are stationed. So, for instance, I clerked in the Seventh Circuit, which is headquartered in Chicago, but also covers Wisconsin and Indiana (in addition to Illinois). The court basically only hears cases in Chicago, but there are judges based in Indiana and Wisconsin who were typically appointed with the support of senators from those states. If a "Wisconsin" seat opens up, it is traditionally the case that it will be filled by another Wisconsinite. This way all the states that make up a circuit get some representation in that circuit.

(It is sometimes possible to move one's duty station, but it's fairly rare. For instance, M. Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit moved from Seattle to San Diego, I believe for personal reasons. But since both are in the Ninth Circuit, it was not a big deal.)
posted by raf at 11:05 PM on February 17, 2013


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