SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit announced Tuesday that Judge Richard Tallman will take senior status in March 2018.
“It has been my honor and a distinct pleasure to serve the nation and the people of the western United States as a member of the federal judiciary,” Tallman wrote in an Aug. 10 letter informing President Donald Trump of his intentions. Tallman is set to go senior on March 3, his 65th birthday.
The move by Tallman, who was confirmed to the court in 2000 after being appointed by President Bill Clinton, will leave the nation’s largest appellate court with five open seats. Since Tallman, regarded as one of the court’s most conservative judges, has indicated he plans to remain active, it will give President Donald Trump an opportunity to further shake up the balance of the court.
“Judge Tallman is one of the most reliably conservative members of the Ninth Circuit, and I suspect he will likely be replaced by another very conservative individual,” said Ben Feuer, of the California Appellate Law Group.
As of now, 18 of the 25 sitting Ninth Circuit judges were appointed by Democratic presidents. The court currently has open seats in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Oregon. If the Senate abides by the tradition of allowing home-state senators to hold up objectionable nominees, the White House would need to put forward compromise candidates in the three latter states, which all have two Democratic U.S. senators. Tallman, who is from Seattle, adds one more tricky seat for the president, who has frequently lambasted the court for siding against his administration’s policies.
Feuer, however, pointed out in the current, post-filibuster Congress the so-called blue-slip process seems more like a speed bump for controversial judicial nominees than a full-fledged veto for home-state senators.
“Should a conservative be appointed to replace Judge Tallman, as long as Judge Tallman remains on the court as a senior judge, that will add to the conservative bloc on the Ninth Circuit and thereby move the court as a whole further to the center,” Feuer said.