Bruce M. Selya

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Bruce Selya
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
Incumbent
Assumed office
December 31, 2006
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
In office
October 14, 1986 – December 31, 2006
Appointed by Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Ojetta Thompson
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
In office
August 18, 1982 – October 14, 1986
Appointed by Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Raymond Pettine
Succeeded by Ernest Torres
Personal details
Born (1934-05-27) May 27, 1934 (age 80)
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Alma mater Harvard College
Harvard Law School

Bruce Marshall Selya (born May 27, 1934) is a senior federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and former chief judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review who is known for his distinctive writing style.[1][2]

Career[edit]

Judge Selya received an A.B. degree from Harvard University in 1955. He received his LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1958.

From 1958-1960, Selya served as a law clerk to Edward W. Day, who was then Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. He then entered into the private practice of law in Providence, Rhode Island. From 1965-1972, he also served as a probate judge in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

In 1982, Selya was nominated to be a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, filling a seat formerly held by Judge Raymond J. Pettine. President Reagan elevated Judge Selya to a newly created seat on the First Circuit in 1986.

In 2000, Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed Selya to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, a position Selya held until 2004. In 2005, Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed Selya to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, and in 2008 Selya was appointed by United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts to the chief judgeship of the Court of Review.[3] As the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is not an adversarial court and (with few exceptions) only hears argument from the United States government, the Court of Review solely hears appeals from that court when the government is denied a warrant for wiretap surveillance of suspected terrorists or spies.[2]

Judge Selya assumed senior status at the end of 2006.[3] Then Senator Lincoln Chafee recommended that former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Flanders, Jr. be nominated to replace Selya.[4] President George W. Bush interviewed Flanders, United States District Judge William E. Smith, and Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Paul A. Suttell for the position,[5] before selecting Judge Smith as the nominee.[6] Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse asserted that, due to the President's failure to work with Whitehouse and fellow Democratic senator Jack Reed in selecting a consensus candidate, the vacancy left by Selya's departure would not be filled during Bush's tenure.[7]

On October 6, 2009, Obama formally nominated Ojetta Thompson to Selya's seat on the First Circuit.[8] She was confirmed by the Senate in a 98-0 vote on March 17, 2010.[9]

Writing Style[edit]

As a private practitioner, Selya was often lulled to sleep by the legalese and boilerplate rhetoric in judicial opinions, a matter he has sought to remedy since ascending to the bench: "I made a commitment to myself that I would attempt to prove that sound jurisprudence and interesting prose are not mutually exclusive."[10] Selya disclaims "lexiphanicism for its own sake." For Selya, precision is a precondition for his use of a word, and "[i]f it does not fit, I won't submit."[10]

Selya aspires toward readability by using uncommon words in contexts that make the words' meanings clear;[10] and apart from his vocabulary, Selya's prose is notable for its readability and its avoidance of clotted or formulaic legal rhetoric. It is clear at least that Selya is widely read by his colleagues. Over the years 1998-2000, Selya numbered as the fourth most cited federal judge outside of the Supreme Court, as measured by the number of citations to his opinions from outside of his own circuit.[11] Occupying the three positions above Selya were Judges Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, and Sandra Lynch.

Selya's writing style is not without its critics. Boston attorney Harvey A. Silverglate has written that his opinions are "well known" for their "remarkably judgmental but politically naive language," and that "[i]t is not unusual to see Selya gratuitously criticize, in sarcastic and sometimes grandiloquent fashion, a party or witness. He has earned a reputation for tossing around both his power and trademark one-hundred-dollar words."[12]

Notable Opinions[edit]

One of Selya's recent opinions, Ungar v. PLO,[13] has been singled out by The Green Bag as a notable example of good judicial writing.[14] A representative sampling of recent opinions includes Aguilar v. ICE, 510 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2007) (immigration law and federal jurisdiction)[4]; Havlik v. Johnson & Wales University, 509 F.3d 25 (1st Cir. 2007) (education law)[5]; Alexander v. Brigham & Women's Physicians Org., 513 F.3d 37 (1st Cir. 2008) (employee benefits)[6]; United States v. Martin, 520 F.3d 87 (1st Cir. 2008) (federal sentencing guidelines)[7]; Connectu LLC v. Zuckerberg, 522 F.3d 82 (1st Cir. 2008) (civil procedure)[8]; Rio Mar Assocs., LP, SE v. UHS of Puerto Rico, Inc., 522 F.3d 159 (1st Cir. 2008) (tort law)[9]; and Morales v. Sociedad Espanola de Auxilio Mutuo y Benificencia, 2008 U.S. App. 2380 (administrative and medical law)[10].

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Abel, David (December 10, 2006). "The sesquipedalian septuagenarian". Boston Globe. Retrieved December 10, 2006. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Fitzpatrick, Edward (April 14, 2008). "Selya Is Named Top Judge on U.S. Wiretap Court". Providence Journal. Retrieved May 15, 2008. 
  4. ^ Peoples, Steve (March 17, 2006). "Chafee Taps Flanders for Appeals Court Vacancy". Providence Journal. Retrieved December 10, 2006. [dead link]
  5. ^ Fitzpatrick, Edward (November 20, 2006). "Fate of Flander's Judgeship Uncertain". Providence Journal. Retrieved December 10, 2006. [dead link]
  6. ^ Mulligan, John (December 7, 2007). "Bush Selects Smith for U.S. Appeals Court". Providence Journal. Retrieved May 15, 2008. 
  7. ^ Fitzpatrick, Edward (September 24, 2007). "Federal court vacancies yet to be filled". The Providence Journal. Retrieved July 7, 2007. 
  8. ^ President Obama Nominates Judge Denny Chin for United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson for United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, whitehouse.gov (October 6, 2009).
  9. ^ Congressional Record March 17, 2010
  10. ^ a b c "How Appealing's 20 Questions: Bruce M. Selya". HowAppealing.law.com. March 8, 2004. Retrieved October 12, 2007. 
  11. ^ Choi, Stephen, et al. "Mr. Justice Posner? Unpacking the Statistics". 61 N.Y.U. Ann. Surv. Am. L. 19, 28 (2005). Retrieved October 13, 2007. 
  12. ^ Silverglate, Harvey (June 24, 2005) Finneran's Wake, Boston Phoenix
  13. ^ "Ungar v. PLO, 402 F.3d 274 (1st Cir. 2005)". United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Retrieved October 13, 2007. 
  14. ^ "Green Bag: Recommended Reading". Green Bag Almanac & Reader 2006. Archived from the original on July 14, 2007. Retrieved October 13, 2007. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Raymond Pettine
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island
1982–1986
Succeeded by
Ernest Torres
New seat Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
1986–2006
Succeeded by
Ojetta Thompson