Notice & Comment

“It Was Almost As If His Vote Counted Double”: The Legacy of Judge James Buckley

Judge James Buckley has passed away. I did not know him, but five years ago I wrote about his legendary career. In Judge Buckley’s honor, I’ll repeat what I wrote then (with some minor modifications):

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 then retired — 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. That’s because Buckley 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 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):

Judge Buckley was a legend — both on and off the D.C. Circuit. May he rest in peace.

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