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A Look at 3 Federal Appeals Judges in Travel Ban Case

  • VOA News

Judge William Canby is photographed in his office in Phoenix, Nov. 4, 2015.

Judge William Canby is photographed in his office in Phoenix, Nov. 4, 2015.

A three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is deciding whether to uphold a lower court's order barring the government from enforcing President Donald Trump's travel ban.

The panel includes one moderate conservative appointed by a Republican president and two moderate liberals appointed by Democratic presidents.

William Canby

William Canby is the most senior member of the three. The 85-year-old was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and confirmed by the Senate the same year. He studied at the University of Minnesota Law School and went on to serve as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Charles Whittaker in the late 1950s. Whittaker retired in 1962.

Canby was a professor at Arizona State University when he was nominated. He is best known as an expert on Native American law.

Richard R. Clifton, the newest judge to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is seen during his swearing-in ceremony, in Honolulu, Oct. 15, 2002..

Richard R. Clifton, the newest judge to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is seen during his swearing-in ceremony, in Honolulu, Oct. 15, 2002..

Richard Clifton

Richard Clifton was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001 and confirmed by the Senate in 2002. He had been in private practice in Hawaii for 25 years at the time of his appointment, and his work focused on commercial and business litigation.

The 66-year-old studied at Yale Law School, and, like Canby, also spent time teaching law. He did a clerkship on the 9th Circuit in the 1970s.

Circuit Judge Michelle T. Friedland, right, gestures while questioning Barry Bonds' attorney, Dennis Riordan, before an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, Sept. 18, 2014.

Circuit Judge Michelle T. Friedland, right, gestures while questioning Barry Bonds' attorney, Dennis Riordan, before an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, Sept. 18, 2014.

Michelle Friedland

The junior member of the panel is Michelle Friedland, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014. At 44 years of age, she is the youngest appeals court judge in the United States.

Friedland studied at Stanford Law School and later taught there as well. She was working in private practice in San Francisco at the time of her appointment. Her decade of experience included tax, patent and anti-trust issues.

Friedland also served as a clerk at the Supreme Court under Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired in 2006. Justice Samuel Alito now holds that seat.

The James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building, home of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is pictured in San Francisco, California, Feb. 7, 2017.

The James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building, home of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is pictured in San Francisco, California, Feb. 7, 2017.

Circuit Court of Appeals

Both Clifton and Canby are officially what are known as senior judges, ones who retired from sitting full time on the circuit court but still get a salary to sit for a much reduced caseload. They are asked at a minimum to handle in a year about what a full-time judge handles in three months.

The system helps the court system continue to function when there are vacancies, which are subject to Senate confirmation, or recusals based on potential conflicts of interest. There currently are 18 U.S. Circuit Court vacancies nationwide, with four of them on the 9th Circuit.

The panel deciding the travel ban case is called a motions panel, and its members change every month. Clifton, Canby and Friedland were selected for February. Those selections are made by the clerk of the court, who uses a system that aims to have each full-time judge sit on a panel with every other full-time and senior judge roughly the same number of times during a two-year period.

The 9th Circuit is based in San Francisco and covers nine western states: California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii.

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