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U.S. Judge Katzmann Goes Senior, Giving Biden 2d Circuit Vacancy

Jan. 22, 2021, 12:25 AM

Judge Robert A. Katzmann took senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, creating a vacancy that President Joe Biden will be able to fill on the New York-based court.

Effective Thursday, Katzmann joined the faculty at New York University School of Law as a professor of practice. The move coincides with Katzmann assuming senior status, NYU said in a statement.

Katzmann, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, spent 22 years as a judge on the Second Circuit. In 2019, he ruled against President Donald Trump, rejecting his claim that presidential immunity protects him from enforcement of a state grand jury subpoena to his accountants for tax records. The Supreme Court later upheld that ruling.

Senior status is a form of semi-retirement afforded to judges that allows them to preside over cases without being considered an active judge.

Katzmann, who served as chief judge of the Second Circuit from 2013 until Aug. 2020, is no stranger to academia. He taught government, law and public policy at Georgetown University prior to joining the federal bench.

Katzmann’s decision to vacate his seat comes after another Judge Victoria Roberts, a federal judge in Michigan, told Biden on Inauguration Day that she planned to take senior status. Biden will need more judges to do the same if he’s to make an impact on the federal bench.

President Donald Trump, with the help of the Republican-led Senate, made over 230 federal judicial appointments, filling over a quarter of the federal judiciary. That leaves Biden with few judicial vacancies, especially at the appeals court level where Trump, at one point, had filled every seat.

Biden begins his administration with about 50 judicial vacancies. According to the Federal Judicial Center data, there are currently two appeals court vacancies, 45 district court vacancies, and three future vacancies on trial courts.

Roberts creates a fourth future trial court vacancy and Katzmann creates a third appeals court vacancy. Biden will also have another seat to fill on the D.C. Circuit should Merrick Garland be confirmed as attorney general.

Trump, by contrast, began his administration with about 106 federal judicial vacancies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at; John Crawley at