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Soon to be Ex-Judge McConnell--Skeel

With the exception of Supreme Court speculation, the biggest news in my little neighborhood these days is the announcement that Judge Michael McConnell will step down to join the faculty of Stanford Law School. As many readers will know, McConnell was the nation’s leading religion clause scholar and a law professor at the University of Chicago and then the University of Utah before being appointed to the federal court of appeals. No doubt there are many reasons for his decision to give up his judicial robes—the desire to return to the scholarly fold and to litigate occasional, high profile cases, perhaps, or weariness with the routines of appellate judging. But surely one small factor is that any prospects for a nomination to the Supreme Court are now very dim. Judge McConnell is quite young—he’s only 53 or 54—but it is highly likely that President Obama will be in office for the next eight years. By the time there’s a realistic chance of a Republican president, he’ll be in his 60s. Given the clear emphasis these days on appointing young justices, the odds of a future nomination are small and distant.

My guess is that Judge McConnell is not the last of the high profile, Republican appointed appellate judges who will step down in the next few years.


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