5th Circuit judge resigns to focus on trial work as an attorney

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5th Circuit Court building Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Infrogmation via Wikimedia Commons.

Judge Gregg Costa of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans says he announced his resignation last month because he wants to resume trying cases as a lawyer.

Costa’s decision had surprised some in the legal community because he is still too young to retire or take senior status, Law.com reports via How Appealing. But Costa said those who know him well understand what really motivates him—trial work.

“I came to the realization that I’m better suited to being an advocate than a judge,” Costa told Law.com. “I enjoy it more. I think I’m better at it. And I just didn’t think for the rest of my career I wanted to be the umpire. I wanted to step back into the batter’s box and take some swings myself as the lawyer.”

Costa said he wants to work in private practice in which he can focus on trial-level civil and criminal work.

Costa was an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges and an assistant U.S. attorney before he was confirmed in 2012 to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He was elevated to the 5th Circuit in 2014.

The 5th Circuit is “one of the country’s most conservative-leaning courts,” according to Law.com. Costa is a Democratic appointee who “has penned a number of notable dissents.” In one, he dissented from an opinion upholding qualified immunity for a correctional officer who pepper-sprayed an inmate in the face. In another, he argued that defendants have a right to exculpatory evidence before pleading guilty.

Costa told Law.com that he thinks that the “increased polarization that is afflicting society” is extending to the courts. He worries that the increasing number of nationwide injunctions issued by federal judges are contributing to the notion that the judiciary is politicized.

“When I clerked at the Supreme Court 20 years [ago], nationwide injunctions were not a thing,” Costa said. “Now, it’s hard to keep track of all the nationwide injunctions that issue and reach the court in stay motions.”

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