4th Circuit judge rescinds plan to take senior status

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A federal judge who announced in August that he would step down from active service has changed his plans.

Judge Robert B. King, who was appointed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond, Virginia, in 1998 by former President Bill Clinton, told the White House on Wednesday that he was withdrawing his intent to take senior status.

Reuters and Bloomberg Law reported on the decision.

According to Reuters, the 81-year-old jurist wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden that “after careful consideration, I have decided to continue for the foreseeable future in regular active service.” He also apologized “for any inconvenience I may have caused.”

King did not provide a reason and declined to comment to Reuters and Bloomberg Law.

John Collins Jr., a professor at the George Washington University Law School who studies judicial nominations, spoke to Bloomberg Law about King’s decision. He said “it’s not unprecedented to do this, but it is unusual,” and that he “would be very surprised if it was just a change of heart.”

“He’s been a circuit judge for more than 20 years, and I’m sure he didn’t just retire on a whim only to regret it later,” Collins said of King.

A similar situation arose in 2018, when Judge Michael Kanne of the 7th Circuit at Chicago rescinded his plan to take senior status. It was reported at the time that Kanne decided not to retire after learning that his former clerk, Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, wouldn’t be named as his replacement.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Virginia Solicitor General Toby Heytens, Biden’s first pick for the 4th Circuit, earlier this month. According to Bloomberg Law, Biden will be able to fill another seat on the court after Judge Henry Floyd moves into senior status Dec. 31.

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