M. Margaret McKeown

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M. Margaret McKeown
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Assumed office
April 8, 1998
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded byJoseph Jerome Farris
Personal details
Born (1951-05-11) May 11, 1951 (age 71)
Casper, Wyoming, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationUniversity of Wyoming (BA)
Georgetown University (JD)

Mary Margaret McKeown (born May 11, 1951) is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and is based in San Diego, California. McKeown has served on the Ninth Circuit since her confirmation in 1998.

McKeown had been mentioned by some as a possible future United States Supreme Court nominee.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

McKeown, a native of Casper, Wyoming, graduated from Kelly Walsh High School in Casper in 1969.[3] She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wyoming in 1972, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 1975. She has also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Georgetown and studied at the University of Madrid. McKeown is an adjunct professor at the University of Washington Law School and at the University of San Diego School of Law. She is best known in academia for her work in intellectual property law.[4]

Legal career[edit]

McKeown was the first female partner with the law firm of Perkins Coie in Seattle, Washington, and Washington, D.C., representing clients like Boeing, Nintendo and Citicorp during her time at the firm, from 1975 until 1998.[3]

McKeown also served in the White House as a White House fellow under President Jimmy Carter, working as a special assistant to the United States Secretary of the Interior Cecil D. Andrus from 1980 until 1981.[3]

Federal judicial service[edit]

On March 29, 1996, President Bill Clinton nominated McKeown for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then renominated by Clinton on January 7, 1997. McKeown was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 27, 1998, by a vote of 80-11. She received her commission on April 8, 1998. She is currently duty stationed in San Diego, California.[5] McKeown is on the Board of the Federal Judges Association.


Between December 2014 and August 2020, McKeown sat on an en banc panel 29 times. McKeown was in the majority in all 29 of the en banc cases she heard during that time period. [6] [7]

Notable cases[edit]

On September 6, 2007, McKeown penned a judgment for a three-judge panel which affirmed a lower court ruling that banned display of a white metal Latin cross in the Mojave National Preserve in southern California. She ruled that it was a violation of the Constitution's Establishment Clause, which bars the government from favoring any one religion.[8] The United States Supreme Court reversed this decision by a vote of 5-4 and remanded the case.[9]

On August 23, 2019, McKeown was one of three judges to rule that a prisoner with gender dysphoria had a right to sex reassignment surgery under the 8th Amendment.[10]

On March 9, 2020, McKeown delivered the 9th Circuit's en banc majority decision in Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin. Michael Skidmore, representing the trust of rock band Spirit's late lead singer Randy Craig "Randy California" Wolfe, sued rock band Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement. In 1968, Spirit released an instrumental song, "Taurus", whose opening guitar chords bear a strong resemblance to Led Zeppelin's 1971 worldwide hit "Stairway to Heaven". McKeown's decision affirmed a lower court's dismissal of Skidmore's claim that the similarity is not legally actionable.[11]

Legal reform work[edit]

McKeown was elected to the American Law Institute in 1993 and was elected to the ALI Council in 2009.[12] She serves as an Adviser on several ALI projects: the Restatement Fourth, Foreign Relations Law of the United States-Treaties;[13] the Restatement Third, The U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration project;[14] and the International Intellectual Property project.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ariane de Vogue and Jan Crawford Greenburg, Obama's Potential Supreme Court Nominees, ABC News, (May 5, 2009).
  2. ^ Greg Moran, Appeals judge might be on list for Souter's job, The San Diego Union-Tribune, (May 11, 2009).
  3. ^ a b c "Wyo native possible Supreme Court nominee".
  4. ^ "UW Alumni Honored for Accomplishments". University of Wyoming. 2017-09-05. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  5. ^ "University of San Diego Jurist in Resident Profile". Archived from the original on 2006-09-01.
  6. ^ "Know Your En Banc Ninth: Who's On It?". JDSupra. August 7, 2020. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  7. ^ "Know Your En Banc Ninth: Birds of a Feather". JDSupra. August 18, 2020. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-12. Retrieved 2017-01-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Salazar v. Buono, 130 S. Ct. 1803 (2010).
  10. ^ http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2019/08/23/19-35017.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  11. ^ https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/6801621/Stairway.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  12. ^ American Law Institute - List of Officers and Council Archived September 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Restatement Fourth, The Foreign Relations Law of the United States - Project Participants". Archived from the original on 2014-04-07.
  14. ^ "Restatement Third, The U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration - List of Project Participants". Archived from the original on 2010-12-05.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit