Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Re Murguia (9th Cir. - Dec. 24, 2010)

Let's ring in the holiday with a welcome to the newest member of the Ninth Circuit:  Judge Mary Murguia, who was confirmed last week.  Welcome.

I don't know if anyone else actually noticed (as no one I've read has ever mentioned this fact), but by my calculation, we're not just welcoming the newest member.  At least if things go as I'd anticipate, we may also be welcoming the future Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit.  Assuming that Chief Judge Kozinski stays on until his term expires 2014 (as I have every reason to anticipate he shall), then it'll be Sid Thomas' turn as Chief.  Since Judge Thomas will be a spry 61 at the time, he can serve all seven years if he'd like.  Which, if it happens, will take us to 2021.  At which point the judge with the highest seniority who's not yet 65 will be . . . Judge Murguia.

Now, Goodwin Liu was nominated first, and would have taken this spot had he been confirmed first, but we all know what's transpired on that front.  So one consequence of Liu's stalled nomination is that Murguia gets the nod as Chief.

This assumes, of course, that Judge Thomas' term runs its course.  Maybe he goes senior.  Or gets elevated.  Or feels like handing it off early.  If anything like that happens, depending on the timing, lots of people are in the running for the next Chief.

But don't be surprised if the newest, and youngest, member of the Ninth Circuit eventually moves from the extreme side of the en banc panel seating chart to occupy that center chair.  And, unless procedures change, to be on every en banc panel.

So welcome, Judge Murguia.  As they say:  Your future's so bright, you ought to wear shades.