Federal appeals judge, a former Portland lawyer, stepping down from bench

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Nov. 17—Judge William Kayatta of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced Friday that he's stepping down from the Boston-based federal court.

Kayatta, a Cape Elizabeth resident and a former partner at Pierce Atwood in Portland, was appointed in 2012 by President Barack Obama and was confirmed the following year. He replaced Kermit Lipez, who also was from Maine.

Although the 70-year-old jurist is retiring from active service, Kayatta will assume senior status once his successor is confirmed. Federal judges who are at least 65 have the option of continuing to serve in a part-time capacity.

Kayatta's retirement means President Biden will have a chance to nominate another member of the six-member Boston appeals court. Biden already has appointed three members and nominated a fourth — Seth Aframe — last month but he has yet to be confirmed. Obama appointed the other active member, David Barron.

The 1st Circuit is the smallest of 12 federal appeals courts and hears cases from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico.

Kayatta, a Rhode Island native and graduate of Harvard Law School, practiced in Maine for many years and was a partner at Pierce Atwood, during which time he argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He also previously served as president of the Maine Bar Association.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law and an expert on the judiciary, said Kayatta has been an "excellent" appellate judge.

Tobias expects Biden to consult with Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine on a replacement for Kayatta.

"Plenty of time remains to nominate and confirm someone, because there are only five circuit nominees now who are ahead of the person who will be named," Tobias said.

Collins also praised Kayatta's service.

"I would like to express my sincere appreciation for Judge Kayatta's 10 years of service on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He has consistently demonstrated a commitment to legal excellence, and his contributions to the legal profession reflect a commendable dedication to justice and public service," she said in a statement issued by her office. "Aside from his service on the bench, Judge Kayatta's impact on the Maine legal community has been significant, including through his numerous leadership roles with organizations like the Maine Professional Ethics Commission and the Maine Board of Bar Examiners."