Last week was a busy one in legal news, so we apologize for our tardiness in bringing you this news. As first reported at the South Carolina Appellate Law Blog, and later picked up by The State, Chief Judge William Wilkins is retiring as chief judge of the Fourth Circuit.
William “Billy” Wilkins of Greenville is stepping down as chief judge of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, a position he has held since 2003….
Wilkins, 64, in a prepared statement Thursday afternoon said he had notified President Bush of his decision to step down effective July 1, 2007.
“It’s time to move on,” he said.
The obvious questions. First, who will replace him as Chief Judge?
Under federal seniority rules, his successor would be Karen Williams of Orangeburg, who would become the first woman to hold that position in the circuit. Williams, 55, is the next senior judge younger than 65.
Judge Williams, you may recall, is a judicial hottie, described by the New York Times as “a tall, slender woman with delicate features and a regal carriage.” Rumored to have both a private plane and a personal shopper, the stylish Judge Williams is known around her hometown of Orangeburg as “Miss Karen.”
(Yes, she’s married. But as a fellow South Carolina native explains, “the first thing one must learn about Orangeburg is that every woman is referred to as Miss,” regardless of her marital status.)
And who might be nominated to the Fourth Circuit to fill the new vacancy on the court? Some speculation appears after the jump.
Filling a vacancy on the Fourth Circuit is no easy task. Per T.R. Goldman of the Legal Times:
The politics of judge-picking have been a particularly virulent pox on the Senate over the past few years; lately, it’s the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals where the battle lines are most closely drawn.
Of the three or four highly contentious circuit court nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, two are set to fill slots on the Richmond, Va.-based court: U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle and Department of Defense general counsel William Haynes II, whose tenure at DOD includes controversial policies on detainees and torture.
Both the Boyle and Haynes nominations are in limbo right now. And given the controversy these nominees have generated, it will be tough to get them through a Democrat-controlled Senate.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are also two more vacancies — the seats formerly held by Francis Murnaghan Jr. and J. Michael Luttig — and squabbling over how the Fourth Circuit seats should be divided up among the states. (Check out the Legal Times piece for all the gory details.)
When the White House and the Senate eventually get around to filling the opening created by Chief Judge Wilkins’s retirement, here is some speculation about what might happen:
• U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd of Pickens for Wilkins’ seat. Floyd, a former state circuit judge who also has served as a Democrat in the S.C. House of Representatives, has been a federal judge since 2003.
• [U.S. Attorney Reggie] Lloyd, for Floyd’s seat. Lloyd earlier this year became the first black person in the state to hold the U.S. attorney’s seat permanently.
• Walt Wilkins, an assistant U.S. attorney in Greenville, for Lloyd’s seat.
Did you get all that? Wilkins, Wilkins, Floyd and Lloyd? It has a very “who’s on first” quality to it. (And yes, Walt Wilkins is the son of Chief Judge Wilkins.)
Some additional possibilities are mentioned by commenters over at the South Carolina Appellate Law Blog. If you have any thoughts on the various Fourth Circuit vacancies, we’d love to hear them.
Chief Judge William Wilkins Takes Senior Status [South Carolina Appellate Law Blog via How Appealing]
Judge Wilkins stepping down [The State]
Hotties in the Holding Pen: Untimely SFJ Nominations [Underneath Their Robes]
Partisan, Territorial Spats Plague 4th Circuit [Legal Times]
William W. Wilkins bio [FJC]
Karen J. Williams bio [FJC]