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June 2007

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


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 Award.

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 years.”

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.