A veteran jurist on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has informed President Donald Trump that he plans to take senior status, potentially opening up another seat on the court for the president to fill.
Ninth Circuit Judge Carlos Bea, 85, informed the president via letter that he intends to take senior status “upon the nomination, confirmation and appointment of his successor,” according to a statement from a court spokesperson. Although Bea intends to remain active on the court, the move would open up a spot on the court’s 29-seat bench of active judges.
The court now includes six Trump appointees among its 27 current active judges. The nomination of Daniel Bress, a Kirkland & Ellis appellate partner and former clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, is currently pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee while one other seat remains vacant without a current nominee.
Bea’s plans were first reported by Bloomberg Law.
Bea, who was appointed to the court in 2003 by President George W. Bush, came to the federal appellate bench after serving on the San Francisco Superior Court bench beginning in 1990. The judge was born in Spain, emigrated to Cuba, and played on the Cuban basketball team in the 1952 Olympics prior to graduating from Stanford Law School in 1958, becoming a U.S. citizen the following year.
Bea, who was among the court’s more conservative jurists, told The Recorder in a 2011 judicial profile that he was “very conscious of the fact that the judiciary is a separate branch of the federal government.”
“I think the behavior of the federal judiciary is really to be marveled at—how there’s not the corruption that you find in other countries in the judiciary,” Bea said. “There’s not the abuses you see in Dickens’ ‘Bleak House.’ So my judicial philosophy, I suppose, is to be conscious of the power that is given us by the Constitution and limitations in which we should exercise it.”