Judge Robert B. King on Wednesday rescinded plans to step down from active service on the Virginia-based federal appeals court where he’s served for more than two decades.
The Bill Clinton-appointee who will be 82 in January withdrew his intent to take senior status, a form of semi-retirement, upon the appointment of a successor, said Patricia Connor, clerk of court for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
No reason was given for the decision, and King declined to comment. He’s been on the court since October 1998 and is based in West Virginia.
“It’s not unprecedented to do this, but it is unusual,” said John Collins, a professor at George Washington University who studies judicial nominations.
“I 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.
Senior status allows judges to step back from their full duties and take on a lighter case load. Going senior would have given President Joe Biden a chance to name his replacement.
Biden appointed Toby Heytens to the Fourth Circuit this month and will have another seat to fill on the court when Judge Henry Floyd takes senior status Dec. 31.
During the Trump administration, Judge Michael Kanne of the Seventh Circuit decided not to retire after learning his former clerk, Indiana Solicitor General Tom Fisher, wouldn’t be his replacement, Politico reported at the time.
In addition to Virginia and West Virginia, the Fourth Circuit encompasses the Carolinas and Maryland.