Biden gains 3rd Circuit vacancy with Greenaway's retirement

  • 3rd Circuit Judge Joseph Greenaway to retire June 15
  • Biden has made three nominations so far to the 3rd Circuit

(Reuters) – U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph Greenaway plans to retire in mid-June from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, creating a fourth vacancy for President Joe Biden to fill on the Philadelphia-based court.

Greenaway, 65, gave notice last week that he plans to step down after 27 years on the federal bench, including a 13-plus year stint as a New Jersey district court judge that preceded his time on the 3rd Circuit, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts disclosed Tuesday.

His decision will create the fourth vacancy of Biden’s tenure on the 3rd Circuit, which hears appeals from Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and currently has a 7-6 tilt in favor of Republican appointees.

The Senate has confirmed two of his picks for the 3rd Circuit, Arianna Freeman and Tamika Montgomery-Reeves, and the Senate Judiciary Committee last week advanced Biden’s nomination of Pittsburgh U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung to fill a third seat.

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Greenaway began his legal career at what is now called Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel after graduating from Harvard Law School. He was later a federal prosecutor and an in-house lawyer at Johnson & Johnson.

Former Democratic President Bill Clinton appointed Greenaway to the federal bench in New Jersey in 1996. Former Democratic President Barack Obama appointed him in 2010 to fill a 3rd Circuit seat previously held by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

The new vacancy gives Biden a chance to extend his record of naming diverse candidates to the federal bench. Of his 97 confirmed judicial nominees, the vast majority have been women and people of color.

Greenaway, who is Black, has spoken repeatedly about the benefits of diversity on the bench. He has said he never imagined becoming a judge and was “flabbergasted” when former U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s search committee asked if he wanted to be one.

“I have no idea if diversity was a factor in my selection or what specific role it played with the senators and the president,” he said in a speech to law students at Cardozo Law School in 2016. “But if it did factor into the decision making, what is wrong with that?”

He said he believed “we all benefit from all kinds of diversity as it relates to our decision making,” and that the “benefits of diversity are manifest and need not, in my view, be justified.”

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at