Ninth Circuit Judge O'Scannlain to assume senior status

By Robert Lawson | Oct 24, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO – United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain will assume senior status. 

SAN FRANCISCO – United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain will assume senior status. 

O'Scannlain notified President Barack Obama that he would be stepping down as a full-time judge in the courts to senior status. Circuit judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals are appointed. In this case, O'Scannlain was appointed by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago. 

O'Scannlain will retain chambers and staff in Portland, Oregon, at the Pioneer Courthouse and take on a much lighter case load. He told the Northern California Record what it means to assume senior status. 

"It means after 30 years of active service on the court, I can start to reduce my caseload," O'Scannlain told the Northern California Record. "Federal judges are appointed for life. At 65, they can elect senior status. That was 15 years ago for me. I felt 30 years was a nice marker and I should start to cut back. I told the chief judge I will be taking a 50 percent caseload. That means, under the rules, I can continue to keep chambers and staff."

O'Scannlain is 79-years-old and President Obama will need to find a replacement to fill his place at the bench in the Ninth Circuit. O'Scannlain has seen many economic and social changes in the course of his lifetime, he said.

O'Scannlain said as a judge, he assumes the priority of the domestic laws of this nation first and foremost, and concedes that Congress must act appropriately in order to deal with globalism.

"That's a question for the legislative branch," O'Scannlain said. "They make the changes in response to globalization. For us, our first allegiance is to our own laws and the appropriate interpretations of the actual statutes Congress has passed. Sometimes we get into international matters, such as construing meanings of a treaty, which we apply language of that document. We are not particularly impressed with the citation to foreign cases to interpret U.S. constitutional provisions, for example. Our principle loyalty is to the actual laws passed by the Congress."

O'Scannlain loves to serve his country and the law, but he admitted that assuming senior status will also be a much needed break for him and his family. 

"I'm happy to continue serving and at a slower pace,"O'Scannlain said. "My wife in particular finds that very attractive and so do I."

O’Scannlain served as chair of the JCUS international judicial relations committee from 2010 to 2015, running rule of law programs with foreign judiciaries in several countries. President George W. Bush also appointed O’Scannlain to the board of trustees of the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation in 2004. O'Scannlain is a former chair of the judicial division of the American Bar Association (ABA). 

O’Scannlain also is an adjunct professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland. He instructs a seminar about the U.S. Supreme Court. O'Scannlain graduated from Harvard Law School and worked mainly in a private practice early on. Then, under Gov. Tom McCall, O’Scannlain served as deputy attorney general of Oregon, public utility commissioner of Oregon and as director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve until 1978 and reached rank of major after 23 years with the reserve and National Guard. O'Scannlain has heard more than 10,000 cases in the federal court during his career. 

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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Oregon State U.S. Congress U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit US Army National Guard

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