United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
(Fed. Cir.)
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Location Howard T. Markey National Courts Building, Washington, D.C.
Established October 1, 1982
Chief judge Sharon Prost
Active judges 12
Senior judges 6
Circuit justice John Roberts
Official website

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Federal Circuit; in case citations, Fed. Cir. or C.A.F.C.) is a United States court of appeals headquartered in Washington, D.C. The court was created by Congress with passage of the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982, which merged the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the appellate division of the United States Court of Claims, making the judges of the former courts into circuit judges.[1][2] The Federal Circuit is particularly known for its decisions on patent law, as it is the only appellate-level court with the jurisdiction to hear patent case appeals.[3]

The court occupies the Howard T. Markey National Courts Building, and the adjacent Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House, the former Cosmos Club, and the Cutts-Madison House in Washington, D.C. The court sits from time to time in locations other than Washington, and its judges can and do sit by designation on the bench of other courts of appeals and federal district courts.


The Federal Circuit is unique among the courts of appeals as it is the only court that has its jurisdiction based wholly upon subject matter rather than geographic location. The Federal Circuit is an appellate court with jurisdiction generally given in 28 U.S.C. § 1295. The court hears certain appeals from all of the United States District Courts, appeals from certain administrative agencies, and appeals arising under certain statutes. Among other things, the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from:[4]

Although the Federal Circuit typically hears all appeals from any of the United States district courts where the original action included a complaint arising under the patent laws, the Supreme Court decided that it does not if the patent claims arose solely as counterclaims by the defendant.[5] Congress, however, overruled the Supreme Court in the America Invents Act of 2011. As a result, the Federal Circuit hears all appeals where the original action included a complaint or compulsory counterclaim arising under the patent laws.

The decisions of the Federal Circuit, particularly in regard to patent cases, are unique in that they are binding precedent throughout the U.S. within the bounds of the court's subject-matter jurisdiction. This is unlike the other courts of appeals as the authority of their decisions is restricted by geographic location and thus there may be differing judicial standards depending on location. Decisions of the Federal Circuit are only superseded by decisions of the Supreme Court or by applicable changes in the law. Also, review by the Supreme Court is discretionary, so Federal Circuit decisions are often the final word, especially since there are usually no circuit splits given the Federal Circuit's exclusive subject-matter jurisdiction. In its first decision, the Federal Circuit incorporated as binding precedent the decisions of its predecessor courts, the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the appellate division of the United States Court of Claims.[6]

Because the Court is one of national jurisdiction, panels from the court may sit anywhere in the country. Typically, once or twice a year, the court will hold oral arguments in a city outside of its native Washington D.C. The panels may sit in Federal courthouses, state courthouses, or even at law schools.


File:Fed Cir as of 2012.jpg
The judges of the Federal Circuit as of 2012.

The Federal Circuit may have a total of 12 active circuit judges sitting at any given time, who are required to reside within 50 miles of the District of Columbia, as set by 28 U.S.C. § 44. Judges on senior status are not subject to this restriction. As with other federal judges, they are nominated by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate. Their terms last during the "good behavior" of the judges, which typically results in life tenure. When eligible, judges may elect to take senior status. This allows a senior judge to continue to serve on the court while handling fewer cases than an active service judge. Each judge in active service employs a judicial assistant and up to four law clerks, while each judge in senior status employs a judicial assistant and one law clerk.[7]

Current composition of the court

As of July 9, 2015, the judges on the court are:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
30 Chief Judge Sharon Prost Washington, DC 1951 2001–present 2014–present G.W. Bush
16 Circuit Judge Pauline Newman Washington, DC 1927 1984–present Reagan
22 Circuit Judge Alan David Lourie Washington, DC 1935 1990–present G.H.W. Bush
29 Circuit Judge Timothy B. Dyk Washington, DC 1937 2000–present Clinton
31 Circuit Judge Kimberly Ann Moore Washington, DC 1968 2006–present G.W. Bush
32 Circuit Judge Kathleen M. O'Malley Washington, DC 1956 2010–present Obama
33 Circuit Judge Jimmie V. Reyna Washington, DC 1952 2011–present Obama
34 Circuit Judge Evan Wallach Washington, DC 1949 2011–present Obama
35 Circuit Judge Richard G. Taranto Washington, DC 1957 2013–present Obama
36 Circuit Judge Raymond T. Chen Washington, DC 1968 2013–present Obama
37 Circuit Judge Todd M. Hughes Washington, DC 1966 2013–present Obama
38 Circuit Judge Kara Farnandez Stoll Washington, DC 1968 2015–present Obama
19 Senior Circuit Judge Haldane Robert Mayer Washington, DC 1941 1987–2010 1997–2004 2010–present Reagan
21 Senior Circuit Judge S. Jay Plager Washington, DC 1931 1989–2000 2000–present G.H.W. Bush
23 Senior Circuit Judge Raymond Charles Clevenger III Washington, DC 1937 1990–2006[8] 2006–present G.H.W. Bush
25 Senior Circuit Judge Alvin Anthony Schall Washington, DC 1944 1992–2009 2009–present G.H.W. Bush
26 Senior Circuit Judge William Curtis Bryson Washington, DC 1945 1994–2013 2013–present Clinton
28 Senior Circuit Judge Richard Linn Washington, DC 1944 1999–2012 2012–present Clinton

List of former judges

# Judge State Born/Died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Laramore, Don NelsonDon Nelson Laramore IN 1906–1989 1982–1989 Eisenhower, Eisenhower[9] death
2 Rich, Giles SutherlandGiles Sutherland Rich NY 1904–1999 1982–1999 Eisenhower, Eisenhower[10] death
3 Almond, Jr., James LindsayJames Lindsay Almond, Jr. VA 1898–1986 1982–1986 Kennedy, Kennedy[10] death
4 Davis, Oscar HirshOscar Hirsh Davis DC 1914–1988 1982–1988 Kennedy, Kennedy[9] death
5 Cowen, Arnold WilsonArnold Wilson Cowen TX 1905–2007 1982–2007 Johnson, L.L. Johnson[9] death
6 Nichols, Jr., PhilipPhilip Nichols, Jr. DC 1907–1990 1982–1983 1983–1990 Johnson, L.L. Johnson[9] death
7 Skelton, Byron GeorgeByron George Skelton TX 1905–2004 1982–2004 Johnson, L.L. Johnson[9] death
8 Baldwin, Phillip BenjaminPhillip Benjamin Baldwin TX 1924–2002 1982–1986 1986–1991 Johnson, L.L. Johnson[10] retirement
9 Markey, Howard ThomasHoward Thomas Markey IL 1920–2006 1982–1991 1982–1990 Nixon, Nixon[10] retirement
10 Bennett, Marion TinsleyMarion Tinsley Bennett MO 1914–2000 1982–1986 1986–2000 Nixon, Nixon[9] death
11 Kashiwa, ShiroShiro Kashiwa HI 1912–1998 1982–1986 Nixon, Nixon[9] retirement
12 Miller, Jack RichardJack Richard Miller IA 1916–1994 1982–1985 1985–1994 Nixon, Nixon[10] death
13 Daniel Mortimer Friedman DC 1916–2011 1982–1989 1989–2011 Carter[9] death
14 Smith, Edward SamuelEdward Samuel Smith MD 1919–2001 1982–1989 1989–2001 Carter, Carter[9] death
15 Nies, Helen WilsonHelen Wilson Nies DC 1925–1996 1982–1995 1990–1994 1995–1996 Carter, Carter[10] death
17 Bissell, Jean GallowayJean Galloway Bissell SC 1936–1990 1984–1990 Reagan, Reagan death
18 Archer, Jr., Glenn LeroyGlenn Leroy Archer, Jr. DC 1929–2011 1985–1997 1994–1997 1997–2011 Reagan death
20 Michel, Paul RedmondPaul Redmond Michel PA 1941– 1988–2010 2004–2010 Reagan retirement
24 Rader, Randall RayRandall Ray Rader DC 1949– 1990–2014 2010–2014 G.H.W. Bush retirement
27 Gajarsa, Arthur J.Arthur J. Gajarsa DC 1941– 1997–2011 2011–2012 Clinton retirement

Chief judges

Chief Judges
Markey 1982–1990
Nies 1990–1994
Archer 1994–1997
Mayer 1997–2004
Michel 2004–2010
Rader 2010–2014
Prost 2014 - present

Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their circuits, and preside over any panel on which they serve unless the circuit justice (i.e., the Supreme Court justice responsible for the circuit) is also on the panel. Unlike the Supreme Court, where one justice is specifically nominated to be chief, the office of chief judge rotates among the circuit judges. To be chief, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position.

When the office was created in 1948, the chief judge was the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire on what has since 1958 been known as senior status or declined to serve as chief judge. After August 6, 1959, judges could not become chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, when the court was initially created, Congress had to resolve which chief judge of the predecessor courts would become the first chief judge. It was decided that the chief judge of the predecessor court who had the most seniority, as chief judge, would be the new chief judge.[11] This made Howard T. Markey, former chief judge of the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, the first chief judge.

Succession of seats

The court has twelve seats for active judges, numbered in alphabetical order by their occupant at the time the court was formed, with the sole vacant seat being numbered last. Judges who retire into senior status remain on the bench but leave their seat vacant. That seat is filled by the next circuit judge appointed by the President.

See also


  1. "Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982". History or the Federal Judiciary. Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved 2011-11-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Pub.L. 97–164 §165, 96 Stat. 50.
  3. USCAFC Court Jurisdiction
  4. History of the Federal Circuit
  5. Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Systems, Inc., 2005.
  6. South Corp. v. United States, 690 F. 2d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1982)
  7. About the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  8. "Federal Judiciary – Judicial Vacancies". Official website of the Alliance for Justice. Archived from the original on February 24, 2006. Retrieved March 16, 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 Reassigned from the United States Court of Claims pursuant to the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982, Pub.L. 97–164 §165, 96 Stat. 50.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 Reassigned from the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals pursuant to the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982, Pub.L. 97–164 §165, 96 Stat. 50.
  11. Pub.L. 97–164 §166, 96 Stat. 50.


  • "OSCAR". Federal Law Clerk Information System. Retrieved May 21, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • source for the duty stations for senior judges
  • "U. S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit". History of the Federal Judiciary. Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved October 21, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    • source for the state, lifetime, term of active judgeship, term of chief judgeship, term of senior judgeship, appointer, termination reason, and seat information

Further reading

  • Bennett, Marion T. (1991). The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: A History, 1982–1990. Washington, D.C.: United States Judicial Conference Committee on the Bicentennial of the Constitution of the United States. LCCN 91601231.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: A History: 1990–2002 / compiled by members of the Advisory Council to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in celebration of the court's twentieth anniversary. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. 2004. LCCN 2004050209.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Abramson, Bruce D. (2007). The Secret Circuit: The Little-Known Court Where the Rules of the Information Age Unfold. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-5281-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Flanders, Steven (2010). The Federal Circuit - a Judicial Innovation : Establishing a U.S. Court of Appeals. Twelve Tables Press. ISBN 978-0-9747-2866-7. LCCN 2011290640.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Henry, Matthew D.; Turner, John L. (2006). "The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's Impact on Patent Litigation". Journal of Legal Studies. 35 (1): 85–117. JSTOR 498834.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links