Chief Judge Randall Rader, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Chief Judge Randall Rader, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Diego M. Radzinschi / The National Law Journal)

SAN FRANCISCO — Federal Circuit Chief Judge Randall Rader has recused himself from a high-profile case for the second time this week.

The chief judge on Wednesday pulled out of a dispute between medical device companies over artificial heart valves. His recusal led to the withdrawal and reissuance of an April 21 stay order that Medtronic has described as being a life-and-death matter for some heart patients.

On Monday, Rader recused himself from a patent case involving Microsoft and SAP, prompting the court to reissue its April 4 decision without a dissent Rader had written.

Both cases were litigated by Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Silicon Valley partner Edward Reines, though it’s not clear that has anything to do with Rader’s recusals. Neither Rader, who became eligible for federal pension benefits two weeks ago, nor Reines responded to inquiries about the recusals.

Rader had joined Judge Sharon Prost on April 21 to stay U.S. District Judge Gregory Sleet’s order enjoining Medtronic from selling its CoreValve heart valves in the U.S. Sleet had encouraged Medtronic and competitor Edwards LifeSciences to negotiate a “carve-out” for patients who are better suited to the Medtronic product, but had stayed his order for only seven days. Judge Pauline Newman dissented from the stay order.

On Wednesday, Judge Evan Wallach took Rader’s place. Prost and Newman technically withdrew the Federal Circuit’s stay, but ordered instead that Sleet’s stay be extended while the Federal Circuit hears Medtronic’s appeal. Wallach issued a brief dissent.

A Medtronic spokesman said the order maintains the status quo.

Patent attorneys contacted Wednesday were at a loss for why Rader recused himself from the two cases. Rader is known to be friendly with Reines, who is president of the Federal Circuit Advisory Council, but one patent attorney noted that Rader is an outgoing sort who’s friendly with a lot of attorneys who appear before the court. That doesn’t typically cause the judge to recuse himself.

In any event, Reines and SAP might be appearing before Rader again soon. On Wednesday, Versata Development Group asked the Federal Circuit to assign its dispute with SAP and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to Rader and two other Federal Circuit judges who heard a related case between the two companies last fall.

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