United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
(Fed. Cir.)
LocationHoward T. Markey National Courts Building
(717 Madison Place, NW
Washington, D.C.)
EstablishedOctober 1, 1982
Circuit JusticeJohn Roberts
Chief JudgeKimberly A. Moore

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (in case citations, Fed. Cir. or C.A.F.C.) is one of the 13 United States courts of appeals. It has special appellate jurisdiction over certain categories of specialized cases in the U.S. federal court system. Specifically, it has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over all U.S. federal cases involving patents, trademark registrations, government contracts, veterans' benefits, public safety officers' benefits, federal employees' benefits, and various other types of cases.[1] The Federal Circuit has no jurisdiction over criminal, bankruptcy, immigration, or U.S. state law cases. It is headquartered at the Howard T. Markey National Courts Building in Washington, DC.

The Federal Circuit was created in 1982 with passage of the Federal Courts Improvement Act, which merged the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the appellate division of the United States Court of Claims, making the judges of the former courts into circuit judges.[2][3] In addition to the Markey Building, the court also occupies the adjacent Benjamin Ogle Tayloe House, former Cosmos Club building, and the Cutts-Madison House in Washington, D.C., on Lafayette Square. The court sits from time to time in locations other than Washington, and its judges can and do sit by designation on the benches of other courts of appeals and federal district courts. As of 2016, Washington and Lee University School of Law's Millhiser Moot Courtroom had been designated as the continuity of operations site for the court.[4]


The Howard T. Markey National Courts Building in Washington, D.C., in which the Federal Circuit is located.

The Federal Circuit is unique among the courts of appeals in that its jurisdiction is based wholly upon subject matter, not geographic location. The Federal Circuit is an appellate court with jurisdiction generally given in 28 U.S.C. § 1295. The court hears certain appeals from all of the United States District Courts, appeals from certain administrative agencies, and appeals arising under certain statutes. Among other things, the Federal Circuit has exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from:[5]

Although the Federal Circuit typically hears all appeals from any United States District Court where the original action included a complaint arising under the patent laws, the Supreme Court decided in Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Systems, Inc. (2002)[6] that the Federal Circuit did not have jurisdiction if the patent claims arose solely as counterclaims by the defendant.[7] However, the force of law of Holmes ended following passage of the America Invents Act of 2011, which requires the Federal Circuit to hear all appeals where the original action included a complaint or compulsory counterclaim arising under the patent laws.

The decisions of the Federal Circuit, particularly in regard to patent cases, are unique in that they are binding precedent throughout the U.S. within the bounds of the court's subject-matter jurisdiction. This is unlike the other courts of appeals as the authority of their decisions is restricted by geographic location and thus there may be differing judicial standards depending on location. Decisions of the Federal Circuit are only superseded by decisions of the Supreme Court or by applicable changes in the law. Also, review by the Supreme Court is discretionary, so Federal Circuit decisions are often the final word, especially since there are no circuit splits given the Federal Circuit's exclusive subject-matter jurisdiction. In its first decision, the Federal Circuit incorporated as binding precedent the decisions of its predecessor courts, the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the appellate division of the United States Court of Claims.[8]

Because the Court is one of national jurisdiction, panels from the court may sit anywhere in the country. Typically, once or twice a year, the court will hold oral arguments in a city outside of its native Washington D.C. The panels may sit in Federal courthouses, state courthouses, or even at law schools.


The judges of the Federal Circuit as of 2016

The Federal Circuit may have a total of 12 active circuit judges sitting at any given time, who are required to reside within 50 miles of the District of Columbia, as set by 28 U.S.C. § 44. Judges on senior status are not subject to this restriction. As with other federal judges, they are nominated by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate. Their terms last during the "good behavior" of the judges, which typically results in life tenure. When eligible, judges may elect to take senior status. This allows a senior judge to continue to serve on the court while handling fewer cases than an active service judge. Each judge in active service employs a judicial assistant and up to four law clerks, while each judge in senior status employs a judicial assistant and one law clerk.

Current composition of the court

As of March 16, 2022:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
31 Chief Judge Kimberly A. Moore Washington, D.C. 1968 2006–present 2021–present G.W. Bush
16 Circuit Judge Pauline Newman[a] Washington, D.C. 1927 1984–present Reagan
22 Circuit Judge Alan David Lourie Washington, D.C. 1935 1990–present G.H.W. Bush
29 Circuit Judge Timothy B. Dyk Washington, D.C. 1937 2000–present Clinton
30 Circuit Judge Sharon Prost Washington, D.C. 1951 2001–present 2014–2021 G.W. Bush
33 Circuit Judge Jimmie V. Reyna Washington, D.C. 1952 2011–present Obama
35 Circuit Judge Richard G. Taranto Washington, D.C. 1957 2013–present Obama
36 Circuit Judge Raymond T. Chen Washington, D.C. 1968 2013–present Obama
37 Circuit Judge Todd M. Hughes Washington, D.C. 1966 2013–present Obama
38 Circuit Judge Kara Farnandez Stoll Washington, D.C. 1968 2015–present Obama
39 Circuit Judge Tiffany P. Cunningham Washington, D.C. 1976 2021–present Biden
40 Circuit Judge Leonard P. Stark Washington, D.C. 1969 2022–present Biden
19 Senior Circuit Judge Haldane Robert Mayer Washington, D.C. 1941 1987–2010 1997–2004 2010–present Reagan
21 Senior Circuit Judge S. Jay Plager Washington, D.C. 1931 1989–2000 2000–present G.H.W. Bush
23 Senior Circuit Judge Raymond C. Clevenger Washington, D.C. 1937 1990–2006 2006–present G.H.W. Bush
25 Senior Circuit Judge Alvin Anthony Schall Washington, D.C. 1944 1992–2009 2009–present G.H.W. Bush
26 Senior Circuit Judge William Curtis Bryson Washington, D.C. 1945 1994–2013 2013–present Clinton
28 Senior Circuit Judge Richard Linn Washington, D.C. 1944 1999–2012 2012–present Clinton
34 Senior Circuit Judge Evan Wallach Washington, D.C. 1949 2011–2021 2021–present Obama
  1. ^ Suspended for a year as of September 20, 2023.[9]

List of former judges

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Don Nelson Laramore IN 1906–1989 1982–1989 Eisenhower / Operation of law[10] death
2 Giles Rich NY 1904–1999 1982–1999 Eisenhower / Operation of law[11] death
3 J. Lindsay Almond VA 1898–1986 1982–1986 Kennedy / Operation of law[11] death
4 Oscar Hirsh Davis DC 1914–1988 1982–1988 Kennedy / Operation of law[10] death
5 Arnold Wilson Cowen TX 1905–2007 1982–2007 L. Johnson / Operation of law[10] death
6 Philip Nichols Jr. DC 1907–1990 1982–1983 1983–1990 L. Johnson / Operation of law[10] death
7 Byron George Skelton TX 1905–2004 1982–2004 L. Johnson / Operation of law[10] death
8 Phillip Baldwin TX 1924–2002 1982–1986 1986–1991 L. Johnson / Operation of law[11] retirement
9 Howard Thomas Markey IL 1920–2006 1982–1991 1982–1990 Nixon / Operation of law[11] retirement
10 Marion T. Bennett MO 1914–2000 1982–1986 1986–2000 Nixon / Operation of law[10] death
11 Shiro Kashiwa HI 1912–1998 1982–1986 Nixon / Operation of law[10] retirement
12 Jack Richard Miller IA 1916–1994 1982–1985 1985–1994 Nixon / Operation of law[11] death
13 Daniel Mortimer Friedman DC 1916–2011 1982–1989 1989–2011 Carter / Operation of law[10] death
14 Edward Samuel Smith MD 1919–2001 1982–1989 1989–2001 Carter / Operation of law[10] death
15 Helen W. Nies DC 1925–1996 1982–1995 1990–1994 1995–1996 Carter / Operation of law[11] death
17 Jean Galloway Bissell SC 1936–1990 1984–1990 Reagan death
18 Glenn L. Archer Jr. DC 1929–2011 1985–1997 1994–1997 1997–2011 Reagan death
20 Paul Redmond Michel PA 1941–present 1988–2010 2004–2010 Reagan retirement
24 Randall Ray Rader VA 1949–present 1990–2014 2010–2014 G.H.W. Bush retirement
27 Arthur J. Gajarsa MD 1941–present 1997–2011 2011–2012 Clinton retirement
32 Kathleen M. O'Malley OH 1956–present 2010–2022 Obama retirement

Chief judges

Chief Judges
Markey 1982–1990
Nies 1990–1994
Archer, Jr. 1994–1997
Mayer 1997–2004
Michel 2004–2010
Rader 2010–2014
Prost 2014–2021
Moore 2021–present

Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their circuits, and preside over any panel on which they serve, unless the circuit justice (the Supreme Court justice responsible for the circuit) is also on the panel. Unlike the Supreme Court, where one justice is specifically nominated to be chief, the office of chief judge rotates among the circuit judges.

To be chief, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges, with seniority determined first by commission date, then by age. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years, or until age 70, whichever occurs first. If no judge qualifies to be chief, the youngest judge over the age of 65 who has served on the court for at least one year shall act as chief until another judge qualifies. If no judge has served on the court for more than a year, the most senior judge shall act as chief. Judges can forfeit or resign their chief judgeship or acting chief judgeship while retaining their active status as a circuit judge.[12]

When the office was created in 1948, the chief judge was the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire, on what has since 1958 been known as senior status, or declined to serve as chief judge. After August 6, 1959, judges could not become or remain chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.[13]

Notwithstanding the foregoing, when the court was initially created, Congress had to resolve which chief judge of the predecessor courts would become the first chief judge. It was decided that the chief judge of the predecessor court who had the most seniority, as chief judge, would be the new chief judge.[14] This made Howard T. Markey, former chief judge of the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, the first chief judge.

Succession of seats

The court has twelve seats for active judges, numbered in alphabetical order by their occupant at the time the court was formed, with the sole vacant seat being numbered last. Judges who retire into senior status remain on the bench but leave their seat vacant. That seat is filled by the next circuit judge appointed by the President.

See also


  1. ^ USCAFC Court Jurisdiction
  2. ^ "Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982". History or the Federal Judiciary. Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved November 21, 2011.
  3. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 97–164 §165, 96 Stat. 50.
  4. ^ "U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit to Hear Cases at W&L Law". March 7, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
  5. ^ "History of the Federal Circuit".
  6. ^ Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Systems, Inc., 535 U.S. 826 (2002).
  7. ^ Holmes Group, Inc. v. Vornado Air Circulation Systems, Inc., 2002.
  8. ^ South Corp. v. United States, 690 F.2d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1982)
  9. ^ "A 96-year-old federal judge is barred from hearing cases in a bitter fight over her mental fitness". AP News. September 20, 2023.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Reassigned from the United States Court of Claims pursuant to the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982, Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 97–164 §165, 96 Stat. 50.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Reassigned from the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals pursuant to the Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1982, Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 97–164 §165, 96 Stat. 50.
  12. ^ 28 U.S.C. § 45
  13. ^ 62 Stat. 871, 72 Stat. 497, 96 Stat. 51
  14. ^ Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 97–164 §166, 96 Stat. 50.

General references

Further reading