University of Pittsburgh

Arthur Hellman on Appellate Judges Sitting on the District Bench and Confronting “Messier” Cases

Publish Date/Time: 
June 26, 2014

It is quite common for federal district judges to sit by designation on a court of appeals, but only rarely do appellate judges sit by designation on the district bench. Currently, however, Third Circuit Judge D. Michael Fisher has been assigned to handle two cases that are ready for trial in the Western District of Pennsylvania. Pitt Law Professor Arthur D. Hellman commented on the development in a story published in the Legal Intelligencer.

Hellman explained that the practice can be beneficial. Since it is common for lawyers to be appointed to the circuit courts from private practice or academia, they can gain valuable experience by handling a trial-level case, which is often messier than what appears before an appeals court. “I think that is very useful,” Hellman said.

The order designating Judge Fisher did not include the reason for the assignment. Chief Judge Theodore A. McKee acknowledged that it would have been preferable to include the reason, and Hellman agreed. The “lack of an explanation is likely to lead people to jump to an erroneous conclusion,” he said.

Read the full article here.  

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