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Let's play a word association game. I say "Sixth Circuit." You say ...

First circuit to rule against gay marriage since Windsor. A circuit that battles the Ninth Circuit for the title of "most reversed" A circuit that is somewhere in the Midwest.

Let's see how this year fit into our mental schematic, shall we? Here are the 10 most popular Sixth Circuit blog posts for 2014:

On August 6, 2014, the Sixth Circuit will hear oral arguments in five consolidated cases addressing same-sex marriage bans in every state in the circuit -- Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio.

Though the Tenth Circuit (in cases involving Utah and Oklahoma) and Fourth Circuit (in a case involving Virginia) have already issued opinions striking down state gay marriage bans, this is the first set of cases out of the Sixth Circuit. And since all of the cases have been consolidated into one set of mega-arguments, the issue could be settled virtually overnight.

We also have the skinny on the panel, which includes two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, as well as information for those who wish to attend the oral arguments in person.

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There's a lot happening in the Sixth Circuit. With the status of Michigan's same sex marriage status up in the air, a new lawsuit has been filed by the ACLU. What will the fate of the couples married in the small window of time when same sex marriage was legal in the state?

We also remember a former Sixth Circuit judge who broke boundaries and look at what influences federal judges.

By now, many have heard of Judge Boyce F. Martin's ignominious departure from the Sixth Circuit bench. The former chief was forced into retirement after a travel expenses reimbursement scandal, one that ended with him agreeing to retire quietly and pay back all of his travel expenses, even those that were undisputed. Nonetheless, Chief Judge Alice Batchelder referred the case to the Justice Department, which decided against bringing charges.

It's been a dark end to a long and notable legal career. In his time on the bench, Martin wrote more than 1,500 opinions, including the first opinion upholding Obamacare, and more notably, the Sixth Circuit's take on Grutter v. Bollinger, an opinion that fractured the court and publicized the infighting in a series of concurrences and appendices.

Word on the street is, this August, Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr. will succeed current-Chief Judge Alice Batchelder.

Why? The Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog doesn't provide a reason, but we suspect that it has something to do with the ageist rules of succession for chief judges of circuit courts, set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 45.

Appellate advocacy. Many of us do mock trial in school, and if we're lucky enough, are trained by experienced advocates in practice. Some, however aren't so lucky, get bad advice, or need a refresher course after years stuck in state trial courts.

The Sixth Circuit has a series of videos, produced by the Federal Defenders Office, aimed at training Criminal Justice Act appointed counsel on the finer points of effective written and oral advocacy, training on electronic case filing, tips for dealing with clients, and advice on avoiding billing mistakes. (Hat Tip to Squire Sanders.)

At the time of his abrupt retirement last August, former Sixth Circuit Chief Judge Boyce Martin stated, "I want to go out at the top of my game rather than having to be carried up and down from the bench."

Allow us to amend that, with recent allegations in mind: "I want to go out at the top of my game rather than having to be carried up and down from the bench [in handcuffs]."

That's better. Now, what scandal forced the "liberal lion" off the bench, and possibly into the defendant's chair?

Perhaps conscious to the appearance of insensitivity to the current budget crisis, specifically, the federal court system's budget crisis caused by sequestration, the Sixth Circuit has agreed to do what many other circuits have declined to do: cancel the party.

By law, the heads of each circuit are authorized to have a judicial conference either every year, or every other year. In the Sixth Circuit, there is a biennial judges-only conference, as well as a biennial open conference for judges and lawyers in the intervening years. Possibly influenced by the criticism levied at other circuit courts, which have thrown lavish conferences at local resorts, the Sixth Circuit announced that the 2014 conference is cancelled, says the Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog by Squire Sanders.

Judge Boyce Martin Retiring From 6th Circuit This Week

To say Judge Boyce Martin of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals loathes the death penalty process is a gross understatement. The court's vociferous liberal lion may be retiring, but he did anything but mince his words in Nicholas v. Heidle, his final capital case.

Martin, 77, who often sported a bow tie in his more than three decades on the bench, concurred with the majority denying a death-row inmate's habeas claim. But Martin said he would "continue to condemn the use of the death penalty as an arbitrary, biased, and broken criminal justice tool."

Affirmed: TennCare Federal Consent Decree Vacated

For 15 years, Tennessee’s Medicaid program has operated under a federal consent decree. In recent years, however, the Volunteer State moved to vacate the decree on grounds that the State is now compliant with both the decree and the Medicaid statute.

Despite pressure from class action plaintiffs to leave the decree in tact, both a district court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals believe that Tennessee is ready to reclaim the reins of its Medicaid program.