A presidential appointee temporarily sitting on the federal court bench may exercise full judicial powers, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.
The 49-page decision released Monday upheld the 200-year-old practice that allows the President to appoint federal judges while the Senate--which must confirm such appointments--is in recess. In such cases, the Senate votes on the appointments when it resumes meeting.
The historic presidential practice has not been seriously challenged in the past.
But in a decision in December, 1983, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court ruled that Presidents no longer can use the mechanism to appoint judges.
Circuit Judge William A. Norris, in writing that panel's ruling, said a potential threat to judicial independence existed.
"A judge receiving his commission under the Recess Appointments Clause (part of the U.S. Constitution) may be called upon to make politically charged decisions while his nomination awaits approval by popularly elected officials," Norris wrote.