In 1985 Battey became a federal judge on the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota. Battey was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on September 27, 1985, to a seat vacated when Andrew W. Bogue assumed senior status. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 25, 1985, and received his commission on October 28, 1985. He served as chief judge from 1994 to 1998. Judge Battey assumed senior status on January 1, 1999.