Randall Rader.
Randall Rader. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ.)

Chief Judge Randall Rader of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will step down as chief judge at the end of May, the court announced Friday.

Rader will continue to serve as an active judge on the Federal Circuit. He’ll “also undertake additional teaching, lecturing and travel,” according to the court. Rader frequently travels around the United States and abroad to teach and lecture.

The resignation comes as Rader faced scrutiny over his decision to recuse from two high-profile cases. Both matters involved Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Silicon Valley partner Edward Reines, according to affiliate publication The Recorder. It wasn’t clear whether Rader’s resignation as chief was related to the recusals. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Rader sent Reines an email earlier this year praising his skills.

Rader released a letter Friday apologizing for the recusals, but he did not say they were the reason for his resignation as chief. Rader said he regretted sending an email to an attorney praising his performance. He did not include the name of the lawyer.

“While I never expected that email to emerge as it did, I realize in retrospect that the email constituted a breach of the ethical obligation not to lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of others,” he said. “I apologize for that error, which may have led to the perception that the attorney in question was in a position to influence me in my performance of judicial duties.”

Rader said he “did not and would never compromise my impartiality in judging any case before me.” However, he stressed the importance of avoiding “even the appearance of partiality.”

“I was inexcusably careless, and I sincerely apologize,” he wrote.

Rader was appointed to the bench in 1990. He’s served as chief judge since 2010. The court’s announcement didn’t explain the reason for his decision to step down. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rader announced his resignation as chief judge at a Federal Circuit Bar Association event Friday morning. According to a copy of his written remarks posted on the association’s website, the judge didn’t discuss his reasons for stepping down. He said he planned to spend time sitting on federal district courts—his “first love,” he said—as well as teaching and continuing to serve on the Federal Circuit.

“No doubt the future will carry many challenges for the Federal Circuit similar to those of the last four years, but it has shown that—working as a body—it can achieve its mission of bringing uniformity to important areas of law while maintaining the high traditions of American jurisprudence,” Rader said.

Judge Sharon Prost, a member of the Federal Circuit since 2001, will succeed Rader as chief judge.

Updated at 3:27 p.m.

Contact Zoe Tillman at ztillman@alm.com. On Twitter: @zoetillman.