The Office of the Chief Circuit Judge
62 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2022
Date Written: December 31, 2021
Despite famously being called, merely, 'one among equals,' the Chief Judge of a federal court of appeals plays a significant role on their court. Internally, the Chief Judge is responsible for everything from overseeing the circuit’s budget to influencing how the court’s sitting calendar is set, from selecting judges who will sit by designation to reviewing complaints of misconduct against judges in their circuit. Externally, the Chief Judge serves as the court’s representative to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the national policy-making body for the federal courts. Outside of official duties, the Chief Judge may initiate projects, which are carried out in the name of their court. One might well say that the Office of the Chief Circuit Judge 'contains multitudes.'
Precisely because the Office comes with considerable responsibilities - and of such different kinds - it is important to understand how the tasks of the Office have been carried out by different office-holders. How do Chief Judges manage all of these tasks? What do they delegate and what do they decide themselves? How do they balance the administrative work of the Chief with the judicial work of an appellate judge? How were they trained for this position? And how much variation is there on these matters depending upon the Chief Judge and their circuit?
This Article takes up these questions and offers a rich, descriptive account of the role of Chief Judge in the modern day, noting the significant variation that exists from circuit to circuit and from Chief to Chief. As with other studies that seek to provide a descriptive analysis of the courts, this Article rests on interviews conducted with the individuals who possess the greatest expertise on the subject - in this case, an unprecedented set of interviews of all current Chief Judges and several former Chief Judges. By providing insight into this important Office, this Article aims to be of use to scholars, practitioners, and even members of the judiciary, themselves.
Keywords: Courts, federal courts, Judges, Chief Judges
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