Judge Anthony J. Scirica, who finished his term as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 2010, is set to take senior status.
Although the timing isn’t yet clear for when he will leave active status, Scirica will become a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School on July 1.
He will continue to serve on the bench after taking senior status, according to a release from the law school.
"I’m looking forward to him being a vibrant and contributing member of the court," said Judge Theodore McKee, who followed Scirica as chief judge of the Third Circuit.
The process for filling seats on federal appeals courts is typically slower than the one for filling trial court seats, said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law who tracks federal judicial vacancies.
However, the process for filling district court seats during President Obama’s first administration became notably longer than it was during the two previous presidencies.
Also, senators are typically afforded less deference for their recommendations to the president on circuit court nominees than they are for their recommendations on district court nominees, Tobias said. However, he said, the Obama White House has been inclined to solicit recommendations from home-state senators — usually one to five names.
For Obama’s circuit court nominees so far, there has been a 277-day average wait from the time the seat became vacant to the time that he made a nomination, according to a Brookings Institution study by Russell Wheeler released in December.
Although there is no sense yet of how long it will be before someone is nominated to Scirica’s seat, a source close to the process said, "It appears there’s an increased sense of urgency from the White House about getting more judicial confirmations."
Having taught courses on complex litigation at UPenn as an adjunct professor, Scirica is now slated to teach a first-year course on civil procedure, according to the release.
"Judge Scirica is an enormously accomplished jurist, beloved and held in high regard by all who know him," said Michael A. Fitts, dean of the law school, in the release. "He has been a superb teacher at Penn Law and brings with him a remarkable breadth of learning and experience."
His appointment is part of an effort by the school to more closely tie academia and professional practice, according to the release.
Scirica was appointed to the Third Circuit in 1987 and, before that, was a judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, starting in 1984.
Beyond the bench, Scirica contributed to the policy-making arm of the judiciary, serving as chair of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
His role there was cited by the three-judge panel, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that awarded him the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award in 2010 — he shared the honor with Judge Ann Claire Williams of the Seventh Circuit.
Tobias recognized Scirica for his work on the Judicial Conference, saying that he handled it with "great finesse."
The panel that gave Scirica the Devitt award also noted his "critical role" in designing Pennsylvania’s sentencing statutes and his "exemplary opinions and prolific public-service activities," according to a release that accompanied the award.