Diversity and IP on the Federal Circuit
On April 4, 2011, by a vote of 86-0, the Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Jimmie Reyna to serve as the next judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. A well-respected practitioner of international trade, Judge Reyna will undoubtedly add a great deal of expertise to the Court in this area.
Judge Reyna earned his J.D. at the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1978. Since then, Judge Reyna has been in private practice handling international trade and policy. Most recently, Judge Reyna was partner at Williams Mullen based in Washington, D.C., and he has been heavily involved in the legal community, serving as President of the Hispanic National Bar Association from 2006-2007 and various other leadership positions in several legal associations.
The unique jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit includes a heavy docket dealing with conflicts arising from international trade, making Judge Reyna’s nomination a no-brainer. Judge Reyna’s confirmation hearing focused a lot on his prior international trade experience and the diversity perspective that he will bring to the bench. Interestingly, however, no questions were directed to Judge Reyna about his patent experience, likely because he lacks practice experience in this area. With a docket dealing with complex patent cases, it will be interesting to see how Judge Reyna responds.
Judge Reyna fills the eleventh of the twelve seats on the Federal Circuit. Other pending nominations include Edward Dumont, an openly gay appellate litigator, whose nomination has been pending for a year without any announcement of a when a confirmation hearing will take place. It appears that the President is seeking to diversify the judiciary; not only would Dumont be the first openly gay judge on the Federal Circuit, but he would be the first openly gay federal appellate judge in the country. Again, however, Dumont’s nomination to the Federal Circuit raises questions because, similar to Judge Reyna, Dumont lacks any technical background or extensive IP background.
As the Federal Circuit diversifies, it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, this will have on the cases that appear before the Court. Both Judge Reyna and Dupont each bring a new perspective to the bench, and both are well-respected lawyers with extensive experience and great reputations in the legal community.