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: