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All Federal Circuit Vacancies Now Have Nominees, but Quick Confirmation Unlikely

National Law Journal

Oct 6, 2010

By Sheri Qualters

President Barack Obama's recent nomination of Jimmie Reyna for one of three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit covers all open slots and adds a candidate with deep international trade expertise. But court watchers expect that at least two of the confirmations to the 12-judge court, including Reyna's, will stretch into next year.

On Sept. 29, Obama nominated Reyna, who directs the international trade and customs practice group and the Latin America task force in the Washington office of Williams Mullen. Reyna also served as the Hispanic National Bar Association's president for its 2006-2007 term.

The other nominees include a federal judge and an appellate specialist. In March, Obama nominated Judge Kathleen O'Malley of the Northern District of Ohio.

In April, he nominated Edward DuMont, a partner in the Washington office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

Reached at his Washington office, Reyna said he's "honored at having been nominated" and "I look forward to the confirmation process." According to a statement from Williams Mullen's president and chief executive officer, Thomas Frantz, the firm is proud that Obama recognized Reyna's record of service by nominating him to the Federal Circuit. "A natural leader with legal acumen and grace, Jimmie has served the firm and its clients with distinction for twelve years," Frantz stated.

Reyna's extensive international trade experience at the International Trade Commission is a useful addition to the court, said Harold Wegner, a patent partner in the Washington office of Foley & Lardner, who closely follows the Federal Circuit. "His appointment to the Federal Circuit should fill a vacuum as a person with special expertise in this area that is part of the jurisdiction of the appellate court," Wegner said.

With all the high-profile patent cases the Federal Circuit receives, there's a need to guard against overlooking the other jurisdictions of the court, said Edward Reines, a partner in the Redwood Shores, Calif., office of New York's Weil, Gotshal & Manges and chairman of the Federal Circuit Advisory Committee. "Reyna is a well-known trade expert and will help the court with its trade docket," Reines said.

Aside from patent appeals, the Federal Circuit's jurisdiction includes International Trade Commission and U.S. Court of International Trade appeals, government contract cases and certain cases involving government employees' or veterans' benefits and monetary claims against the government.

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced O'Malley's nomination to the full U.S. Senate with a voice vote on Sept. 23.

It would be surprising if DuMont or Reyna were confirmed this year because DuMont hasn't had a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, said James Crowne, director of legal affairs of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA).

Lawyers anticipate more Federal Circuit vacancies next year because all of the nine active judges were born in the 1940s or earlier, Crowne said. "A lot of people may very well expect those types of developments based on the age of the judges," Crowne said.

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