D.C. Circuit Review – Reviewed: Judge Buckley Makes an Appearance!

by Aaron Nielson — Friday, Oct. 26, 2018@Aaron_L_Nielson

I feel like I know the judges on the D.C. Circuit — at least a little bit. After all, I clerked there a decade ago and most of the judges are still hearing cases. I also read a lot of D.C. Circuit opinions, which isn’t a bad way to learn how someone thinks. So even if I haven’t met each of them in person, I at least have a sense of the Court’s judges.

Except for one judge: Judge James L. Buckley, retired.

Judge Buckley – who joined in the Court in 1985, took senior status in 1996, and retired at some point (the date of which I cannot find) — isn’t listed on the D.C. Circuit’s webpage:

But he certainly was a judge on the D.C. Circuit. After all, his portrait is there — with a polar bear:

I’ve heard stories about Judge Buckley for a very long time. And this is not without cause. Buckley, who is now 95 (per Wikipedia), has lived an amazing life. A student, this semester, for instance asked me who the “Buckley” was in Buckley v. Valeo. Of course, it was Senator James Buckley — or, as the Supreme Court described him, “a minor-party candidate in 1970 when he was elected to the United States Senate from the State of New York.” Wait, wait, what? New York elected a “minor-party candidate” to the U.S. Senate, and that senator eventually ended up on the D.C. Circuit? Yup. Buckley was a elected as the candidate of the Conservative Party.

But there is more! Judge Buckley, of course, is the brother of Bill Buckley — yes, that Bill Buckley. And according to Judge Sentelle, James is the more respectable brother:

Bill Buckley was someone we all admired. Later I came to, on this court, respect his brother a great deal more than I ever did Bill. I think Jim is one of the most intellectual people I ever met, but we didn’t know about Jim so much then until he ran for Senate and was elected.

After serving in the Reagan Administration, Judge Buckley was nominated to the D.C. Circuit, where it seems he was much loved. If you want to learn more about him, the indispensable folks over at the D.C. Circuit Historical Society have useful information, including the transcript of his portrait ceremony. Here are some highlights from that ceremony.

From Judge Ginsburg’s introduction:

From Judge Wald’s remarks, wherein she described the transition the D.C. Circuit experienced in the 1980s:

And then this:

And one more:

Judge Silberman (unsurprisingly) also had interesting things to say:

And this:

One of Judge Buckley’s law clerks had this to say (which I quite like):

And another clerk had this to say:

The Judge himself said this (and trust me, there is a lot of interesting material left for you to read):

Why do I write about Judge Buckley today? Because he made an appearance — of sorts — this week! I was reading a legal story this week and stumbled across his name:

That surprise reference sent me off reading more about Judge Buckley,* especially because this was another quiet week in the D.C. Circuit. The Court decided a single case — about international arbitration.

In Diag Human S.E. v. Czech Republic – Ministry of Health, Judge Randolph (joined by Judges Srinivasan and Wilkins) affirmed the district court’s refusal “to enforce an arbitral award against the Czech Republic Ministry of Health and in favor of Diag Human, S.E., a corporation organized under the laws of the Principality of Liechtenstein.” This is not my area of law — at all. It seems, however, that the Court need not enforce an arbitration award that is not “binding on the parties.” If you want to know why this award was not binding, read the opinion. Warning: It involves Czech arbitration law:

And with that, enjoy the weekend.


* Judge Buckley wrote a book just a few years ago; I have now put it on my ‘to read’ list. As an aside, I hope that the transcript of (or a recording of) Justice Ginsburg’s remarks — with Judge Tatel — from this week become available. If anyone knows where to find such a thing, I’d love to do a post about that event too.


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About Aaron Nielson

Professor Nielson is an associate professor at Brigham Young University Law School. Before joining the academy, Professor Nielson was a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP (where he remains of counsel). He also has served as a law clerk to Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. of the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Judge Jerry E. Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. All views expressed are the author's alone. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_L_Nielson.

2 thoughts on “D.C. Circuit Review – Reviewed: Judge Buckley Makes an Appearance!

  1. Andy Patterson

    Here’s the answer to your question!

    United States v. Schaffer, 229 F.3d 284 (D.C. Cir. 2000) — footnote at the end:
    Senior Judge Buckley was a member of the panel which decided United States v. Schaffer, 214 F.3d 1359 (D.C.Cir.2000), at issue in the instant petition for rehearing. Having retired on October 1, 2000, however, Senior Judge Buckley did not participate in the consideration of the petition for rehearing.


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