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MOODY ET AL. v. ALBEMARLE PAPER CO. ET AL.

decided: June 17, 1974.

MOODY ET AL
v.
ALBEMARLE PAPER CO. ET AL.



CERTIFICATE FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.

Author: Per Curiam

[ 417 U.S. Page 622]

Appeals from the judgments of the trial courts in two cases were heard and determined by two separate three-judge divisions of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Sitting by designation as members of each of the divisions were senior judges of the Fourth Circuit.*fn1 Following decisions by both divisions, the unsuccessful parties petitioned for rehearings in banc pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 46 (c):*fn2

"Cases and controversies shall be heard and determined

[ 417 U.S. Page 623]

     by a court or division of not more than three judges, unless a hearing or rehearing before the court in banc is ordered by a majority of the circuit judges of the circuit who are in regular active service. A court in banc shall consist of all circuit judges in regular active service. A circuit judge of the circuit who has retired from regular active service shall also be competent to sit as a judge of the court in banc in the rehearing of a case or controversy if he sat in the court or division at the original hearing thereof." (Emphasis added.)

 It had been the practice of the Fourth Circuit to count the votes of their senior judges who were members of the original hearing division when the court acted on the question whether to order a rehearing in banc. In those cases, however, the votes of the senior judges were not crucial. Certificate 3. Here, their votes are crucial. In Moody, while a "majority of the circuit judges of the circuit who are in regular active service" did not vote for a rehearing in banc, the two senior judges who sat on the division by designation did so vote; their votes, if counted, would make a majority for rehearing. In Williams, while a majority of Circuit Judges in regular active service did vote for a rehearing in banc, the senior judge who sat on the original division by designation

[ 417 U.S. Page 624]

     voted against rehearing; with his vote counted the rehearing would fail by an equal division of those voting.

Accordingly, all Circuit Judges of the Fourth Circuit in regular active service and both senior judges of the Circuit have, pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 1254 (3), certified to us the question whether a senior judge of the circuit who was a member of the original division hearing a case may vote to determine whether the case should be reheard in banc. Because of the importance of the question to the administration of judicial business in the circuits, as well as to the parties in the two cases pending in the Fourth Circuit, we granted leave to and invited those parties to file briefs in response to the question certified. Upon consideration of the question and the briefs filed by the litigants on both sides of both pending cases, we conclude that the answer should be in the negative; senior circuit judges who are members of the originally assigned division hearing a case are not authorized by Congress to participate in the determination whether to rehear that case in banc.

The power of courts of appeals to hear or rehear cases in banc was first determined in Textile Mills Corp. v. Commissioner, 314 U.S. 326 (1941). In 1948, Congress provided legislative ratification of Textile Mills by enacting § 46 (c) of the Judicial Code, which then provided that hearings or rehearings before courts of appeals in banc were to be:

"ordered by a majority of the circuit judges of the circuit who are in active service. A court in banc shall consist of all active circuit judges of the circuit." 28 U. S. C. § 46 (c) (1952 ed.). (Emphasis added.)

In the Western Pacific Railroad Case, 345 U.S. 247 (1953), the Court had occasion to construe the 1948 statute, and ...


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