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Arrivederci, Judge Kermit Bye!
On Wednesday, the Eighth Circuit judge's office confirmed that Bye will assume senior status this spring -- April 22, to be exact -- in order to reduce his caseload and spend more time with his family, The Associated Press reports. The move will be on the 15th anniversary of his appointment to the Eighth Circuit bench (April 22, 2000).
Though Judge Bye surely has had a number of significant opinions over the years, his lambasting of the State of Missouri in two recent death penalty cases -- both of which ended in executions before the federal courts could review the inmates' final challenges -- were especially passionate and memorable.
What Is Senior Status?
Senior status is semi-retirement -- a reduced caseload mixed with administrative duties.
The "Rule of 80," from 28 U.S.C. 371(c), determines if and when a judge is eligible for senior status. At age 65, if a judge has at least 15 years of service as an Article III judge (65+15=80), he or she may take senior status. The scale is sliding, up to age 70, where a judge would only need 10 years on the federal bench.
Since Judge Bye is 77 years old, he should have only needed 10 years of service to be eligible. His 15th anniversary, then, seems like more of a symbolic date than a prerequisite.
Why Senior Status Is Good for Everyone
Senior judges still get paid, as long as the judge is "certified" by the presiding chief of the circuit.
Certification requires (a) a 25 percent of normal case load; (b) a lot of grunt work involving motions, cases without oral arguments, or other administrative duties; (c) any combination of the two; (d) the equivalent of a full-time position handling administrative work; or (e) temporary or permanent disability.
And the circuit basically gets an extra judge -- at least, once a new judge is appointed to fill the senior judge's seat, as the senior judge typically still hears cases.
It's a win-win: Judge Bye wins, because he gets a reduced caseload and more time with his family. The court and the public win because he continues to serve.