Transition: May 31 is Chief Judge Paul Michel’s last day on the bench. Judge Randall Rader will become the next Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The Court today released two interesting patent opinions authored by the Chief: Dow Jones v. Ablaise (finding patent invalid as obvious) and Leviton v. Universal Security Instruments (vacating summary judgment of inequitable conduct).
There are several pending en banc cases, including Princo v. ITC (patent pools and antitrust), Hyatt v. Kappos (Admissibility of new evidence in a Section 145 action), Therasense v. BD (standards of inequitable conduct), and TiVo v. EchoStar (contempt proceedings against adjuged infringer who introduced new infringing products).
Combinatorics: With Chief Judge Michel gone, it may be more difficult for en banc panels to overturn prior precedent. With Chief Judge Michel, the court has 11 members and needs a 6–judge majority to overturn prior precedent. Without the Chief, the court will have only 10 members but will still need 6–judges for such a “majority.” With the 11–judge panel, half of the potential outcomes result in majority panel sufficient to overturn prior precedent. With a 10–judge panel, only 38% of the potential outcomes have the same result. (This assumes a binary yes/no on the potential majority position). Chief Judge Michel is particularly important because of his tendancy to side with the majority. In the past decade, Judge Michel has filed fewer dissinting opinions than any other Judge on the Circuit except for Judge Moore (who has only been on the bench for three years). (Judge Newman has filed the most dissenting opinions.)
Next Vacancies: Several other Federal Circuit judges are currently eligible to take senior status. These include Judges Newman, Mayer, Lourie, Gajarsa, and Dyk. Judge Byrson will be eligible in August 2010.
Next Chief Judge After Judge Rader: Judge Kimberly Moore sits as the heir apparent following Judge Rader — assuming that he remains Chief Judge for a full seven years. If Judge Rader vacates the Chief position within six-years, Judge Prost would become Chief.