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Chief Judge Randall R. Rader, of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, has announced today that he is resigning his post as Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit. In a speech he gave at a Federal Circuit Bar Association program this morning, Judge Rader stated:
May 30, 2012 was my first day as Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit. May 30, 2014 will be my last. In a week, I will step aside as Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, opening the position for the new Chief Judge Sharon Prost.
Why the sudden resignation?
Recusals in Key Patent Cases
In recent months, Judge Randall R. Rader has recused himself in two key patent cases before the Federal Circuit -- but only after he took action in the cases. In the Medtronic heart valve case, a stay that was originally granted in the case was withdrawn, and reissued after he recused himself, reports The Recorder. The other case, dealing with Microsoft and SAP patents, the Federal Circuit reissued an opinion -- only without Judge Rader's dissent.
From the outside, the only thing similar in the cases was one of the attorneys -- Edward Reines, a partner and patent litigation attorney at Weil, Gotshal and Manges. It turns out that earlier this year, Judge Rader had "sent a laudatory email to Edward Reines," and the "email raised questions among experienced lawyers in the patent bar because Mr. Reines had appeared before the court" in two recent key cases, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Apparently, the lawyers and bench of the patent bar -- namely the Federal Circuit -- "develop a familiarity that can spill over into friendship" and this situation "shines a light on the clubby world of patent law," reports the Journal.
A day after the Journal reported the endorsement email, Judge Rader announced his resignation on the Federal Circuit website. In his statement to the Federal Circuit Bar Association, he stated that his resignation as Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit will allow him "to return to [his] 'first love' of sitting as a trial judge in various district courts." He added that he "will [also] have time to pursue the joys and challenges of teaching intellectual property courses at both U.S. and foreign law schools."
While the timing of his resignation is suspicious, he may have sent the endorsement email knowing that he intended to resign soon, considering he became eligible for his federal pension in April of this year, according to The Recorder.
Editor's Note May 27, 2014: This post has been edited to note that Judge Rader will be stepping down as Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit. However, according to the circuit's website, he will still have an active role
of service on the court.