Presiding judge musing [guest post]

This is a guest post by David Goodwin.

The late Judge Van Antwerpen served on the Third Circuit from 2004 through 2016. He was 62 when elevated, and had been on the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since 1987. Confirmed in May 2004, he took senior status in October 2006, a little under a year and a half later⁠. His was certainly among the shortest active-status tenures on the Third Circuit, and perhaps among the broader Courts of Appeal as a general matter.

Which made me curious about something: had Judge Van Antwerpen ever presided over a panel?

In the Third Circuit (as is the case more generally), when the Chief Judge isn’t present, the presiding judge is the active judge having the most seniority, and there is always at least one active judge per panel (IOP 3.1 & 3.2). During Judge Van Antwerpen’s entire active-status tenure, he was senior to exactly one other judge: Judge Chagares, confirmed April 2006 (Judge Jordan arrived in December 2006, a little too late). April 2006 is cutting it quite close for panel composition, so it would be more likely that Judge Van Antwerpen presided over a panel consisting of himself and two senior judges, or one senior judge and one by-designation judge.

A quick-and-dirty Westlaw search returned 19 opinions where Judge Van Antwerpen was listed first. Except that many of those were either motions panels or pro se merits panels. For instance, he’s first on Eisenstein v. Ebsworth, 148 F. App’x 75 (3d Cir. 2005), with Judge Greenberg and Judge Nygaard, but that panel never actually heard arguments. Ditto with a few non-pro-se cases that were decided on submission (In re Strategic Techs., Inc., 142 F. App’x 562 (3d Cir. 2005)).

My quick search produced only one argued case with Judge Van Antwerpen presiding: United States v. Acorn Tech. Fund, L.P., 429 F.3d 438 (3d Cir. 2005), with Judge Aldisert and Judge Cowen, was argued October 18, 2005. But hey, one is more than none.

So the short answer is: yes, 1.5 years is enough time to end up presiding over an actual, can-hear-oral-argument panel. But just barely.