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CAFC Shock: Judge Randall Rader Announces Retirement

Written by Gene Quinn
Patent Attorney & Founder of IPWatchdog
Widerman & Malek
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Posted: Jun 13, 2014 @ 5:49 pm
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Judge Randall Rader

UPDATED: 5:52 pm ET

In what can really only be characterized as a stunning development, earlier today Judge Randall Rader of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit announced that he is retiring effective June 30, 2014. This announcement comes only weeks after he stepped down as Chief Judge.

On May 23, 2014, then Chief Judge Rader announced that he would step down as Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit on May 30, 2014. At that time Rader also said that he would continue in active service on the Court, although the official announcement said that he will also undertake additional teaching, lecturing and travel. Given Rader’s statement that he would remain on the Court just weeks ago the announcement today is shocking. It is too early to know exactly why Judge Rader has made this decision, as news is just breaking, but the speed with which Rader has gone from Chief Judge, to Circuit Judge to private citizen is staggering.

Many news outlets immediately started speculating that Rader’s decision to step down as Chief Judge had to do with a letter endorsing attorney Edward Reines, a patent lawyer at Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and president of the Federal Circuit Advisory Council. This speculation was no doubt fostered by the fact that the announcement of Rader stepping down as Chief Judge came on the same day that he sent a letter to all of the other Judges on the Federal Circuit apologizing for his lapse in judgment and for the recent need to recuse himself. Given the timing his announcement he would step down as Chief Judge and his apology letter it is easy to understand why many speculated that the two are connected, although no official pronouncements that I am aware of have connected the two.

This surprise abdication of the Chief Judge position by Judge Rader, who turned 65 on April 29, 2014, meant that Judge Sharon Prost become the next Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit. Had Judge Rader served his entire term as Chief Judge succession rules would have meant that the title of Chief Judge would pass Judge Prost and go on to Judge Moore, who remains next in line after Judge Prost.

It is hard to know exactly what is going on with respect to Judge Rader. Over the years I have gotten to know him a bit, seeing him at virtually ever industry event held. He has been a strong defender of the patent system, a champion for innovators and he will be most definitely missed when he leaves the Court.

Given the sudden retirement announcement, and given the anti-patent climate in the media, it seems likely that we will see further speculation in the popular press about why Judge Rader decided to retire.

With an event like this, which is a real head scratcher and could be explained in many different ways, I will not speculate, although I do certainly wish Judge Rader well.

As more information becomes available I will report. Stay tuned!

For my previous take on issues surrounding Judge Rader stepping down as Chief Judge please see:

About the Author

is a US Patent Attorney, law professor and the founder of He is also a principal lecturer in the top patent bar review course in the nation, which helps aspiring patent attorneys and patent agents prepare themselves to pass the patent bar exam. Gene started the widely popular intellectual property website in 1999, and since that time the site has had many millions of unique visitors. Gene has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the LA Times, USA Today, CNN Money, NPR and various other newspapers and magazines worldwide. He represents individuals, small businesses and start-up corporations. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.

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  1. All that can be said is very best wishes.

  2. Perhaps I have become a bit too jaded, but my first thought was that he was leaked a pre-release copy of the upcoming Alice decision and decided to remove himself from official position as a pre-cursor to a blistering attack on the Court.

    I want to hope for a thoughtful and fully reasoned opinion from the Court regarding the Alice case. I really do want to hold on to that hope.

    My second thought is health – having dear friends suddenly faced with disastrous health developments, I can personally attest that such can put things into a different perspective – and quickly too. I hope that this is not the case.

    In any event, thank you Judge Rader for your service.

  3. A sad — and bad — day for those who care about protectable innovation.

    One less voice of reason where it really counts … to be replaced by … what/whom?

    Given the current administration’s (and Congress’) attacks on one of the bedrocks of our world-leading economy, this is bad news indeed.

  4. What will happen to those cases that Judge Rader sat for orals, but have not had decisions released?

  5. Probably he got a better job offer elsewhere either with a big law firm or with a lobby group.

  6. Hi Gene,

    Judge Rader has explained his decision to stand down from the CAFC and his plans for what comes next:

    Best wishes,


  7. Very glad to see the animus was self-fulfillment.

  8. Thanks Joff. Nice job getting the story out. Whatever the reason Judge Rader will definitely be missed at the CAFC. It will be difficult to fill his shoes.


  9. Probably impetus and not animus was meant above.

  10. Correct Joachim – I was thinking of impetus with an animated and zealous drive – as in, a belief that animates and brings alive. Apologies for any inadvertent confusion.

  11. With Rader stepping down completely, there aren’t that left (Judge Newman being the prominent example, and possibly O’Malley and Moore) willing to buck Our Judicial Mount Olympus, as well as the other Federal Circuit judges when they don’t “toe the line” on the patent statutes. With Newman , there is at least a “conscious” sitting on the Federal Circuit. Once the Grand Dame steps down, we may have none at al.