One of the most curious provisions in federal law is 28 U.S.C. Sec. 44(c), which states the following:
“While in active service, each circuit judge of the Federal judicial circuit . . . and the chief judge of the Federal judicial circuit, whenever appointed, shall reside within fifty miles of the District of Columbia.”
There is a residency requirement for active circuit judges in the other circuits (you have to live in the circuit), but drawing a 50 mile circle around DC for all federal circuit judges seems really silly. First, it sharply limits who can be on that court. Second, what’s so special about where you live when you hear (mostly) patent appeals. And finally, why 50 miles? Folks can easily take a train from New York to DC or live, say 60 miles away and commute. Congress ought to consider repealing this residency rule.
UPDATE: I wonder how this requirement could be enforced against an Article III judge. Impeachment for Federal Circuit judges who move to New York? Does the Chief Judge bar the person from hearing new cases until he or she moves back into the 50-mile zone?