Judge Fisher to Step Aside in April, Opens Circuit Vacancy

Judge Raymond Fisher

Appellate Judge Raymond C. Fisher announced plans Friday to assume senior status April 1, opening a vacancy on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Fisher, 73, has been a member of the court for nearly 14 years.

One of his more prominent decisions in recent years was to write the opinion that held UC Berkeley law profess John Yoo, author of the so-called torture memos, could not be sued by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla over the memos.

Padilla’s 2008 lawsuit recited a series of memos Yoo wrote just after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack in New York that allowed for enhanced interrogation techniques against enemy combatants.  It also expanded the President’s power during the Bush Administration.

Fisher said in that opinion that regardless of the legality of Padilla’s detention and Yoo’s actions, it could not have been clear to a public official at the time that it violated Padilla’s rights.

Fisher was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton in October 1999.

“I plan to continue to render substantial judicial service, although enjoying a bit more time to spend with my family,” he said in a letter informing President Barack Obama of his intentions.

He continues to work out of his Pasadena courthouse chambers.

Fisher served as an associate attorney general for the U.S. under Clinton, the third ranking official in the Justice Department.  He oversaw the DOJ’s civil, civil rights, antitrust, tax, environmental and natural resources divisions.

He also served as president of the Los Angeles Police Commission in 1996.  He had been a member of the Christopher Commission, an independent body created in 1991 to investigate police practices in the wake of the Rodney King beating.

Although federal judges are appointed for life, they may choose to take senior status, when the combination of their age, after they reach 65, and years of service total 80, (known as the Rule of 80.)

Senior status allows them to continue hearing cases at a reduced caseload, but also opens their position to appointment of a new judge.  The practice serves to limit the backlog of appeals in the courts.

Judges may retire as early as 65 with full salary, but many choose to continue to serve on senior status.


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