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King Receives 2007 Devitt Award
Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Carolyn Dineen King is the
2007 recipient of the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice
King was chosen by a three-member panel chaired by U.S.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; other members of the panel
are Chief Judge Deanell Reece Tacha (10th Cir.); and Judge Gerard E.
Lynch (S. D. N.Y.).
In his nomination letter, Chief Judge Michael Boudin (1st
Cir.), said: “Judge King has been an outstanding chief judge of her own
circuit, almost legendary in her devotion to its needs. In her
leadership of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference, she
has been the single most important figure in the [federal] Judiciary in
guiding the courts through the financial crisis of the last several
In a 2004 address, Judge King said: “I have always
believed that lawyers . . . are obligated to tithe their time and to
devote a generous portion of their abilities on a continuous basis to
the service of other persons and their community.”
The selection panel noted King’s devotion to the public
good through legal, civil, and charitable ventures. King was appointed
to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1979. As chief
judge of her circuit, she led efforts to aid the hard-pressed district
courts on the Southwest border, and when there was a severe overload of
cases, she served for several months as a bankruptcy judge. Under her
stewardship, the Fifth Circuit was one of the first federal circuits in
the nation to create an emergency coordinator post and establish
contingency plans for court operations. Thanks to her foresight and
planning, the circuit’s courts were able to return to regular business
soon after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
King served seven years on the Judicial Conference, the
last three as chair of the Executive Committee. In July 2005, some weeks
before his death, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote to Judge King thanking
her for her service. “You have been an exceptionally creative and
vigorous chairman,” Rehnquist wrote. “I have been able to turn over the
gavel to you at Conference sessions knowing that you would preside
effectively and that you had the respect of your colleagues.” He penned
at the end of his letter: “Good work Carolyn.”
The Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award is
named for the late Edward J. Devitt, longtime chief judge of the U.S.
District Court for the District of Minnesota. The annual award honors
Article III judges whose careers have been exemplary, measured by their
significant contributions to the administration of justice, the
advancement of the rule of law, and the improvement of society as a
whole. It is administered by the American Judicature Society with
funding provided by the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation, Minneapolis. The
award will be presented at a ceremony this fall.