But on Monday, Dubina told the Daily Report that the Administrative Office may have acted too soon. He said he had notified Chief Justice John Roberts that he would relinquish the title of chief judge on Aug. 1 and planned to take senior status that day. He said Roberts needed to know because the chief judge chairs the U.S. Judicial Conference, on which circuit court chief judges serve.
But Dubina said taking senior status “is not a done deal until you tell the president,” an action he has not made yet because of the delay in filling the two Georgia-based seats on the Eleventh Circuit.
President Obama has twice nominated Atlanta litigator Jill Pryor to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Judge Stanley Birch in August 2010, but she has been blocked by Georgia’s senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. Another seat was vacated last summer by Judge J.L. Edmondson, who took senior status.
Dubina, who was appointed in 1990 and whose seat is based in Alabama, said he didn’t want to leave his colleagues “in the lurch” with only nine active judges.
He recalled early in his appellate career when the court had several vacancies and only nine judges—with about half the caseload of today. “Nine judges is extremely difficult,” he said, noting that the court suspended its rules requiring two Eleventh Circuit judges on each three-judge panel. Instead the court allowed only one Eleventh Circuit judge on a panel, joined by two visiting judges—a solution that risked the consistency of the court’s precedents, he said.
Speaking of filling vacancies, President Obama is doing so with lots of former federal prosecutors:
President Obama's liberal supporters have been dismayed by some of his judicial appointments, and now they can cite statistics: Obama has nominated former prosecutors more often than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush.
In Reagan's two terms, 40.8 percent of the judges he appointed had once been prosecutors. Bush, who like Reagan sought to move the judiciary in a more conservative direction, chose ex-prosecutors for 44.7 percent of his judicial appointments. The figures were 37.3 percent for Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, and 40.7 percent for Bill Clinton.
Obama, who began his second term Jan. 21, has appointed or nominated 219 federal judges, of whom 100 - 45.7 percent - were former prosecutors, according to statistics compiled by the Alliance for Justice.
By contrast, 33 nominees, all but three of them at the trial court level, had been public defenders. Even fewer had worked as poverty or civil rights lawyers.