Not a First:
A reader asks:
With all the talk of her being the first Hispanic Justice, I find this question more interesting:

Would Judge Sotomayor be the first judge to climb the ladder from federal district judge to federal circuit judge to US Supreme Court Justice?
Nope. Charles E. Whittaker did it first: He was on the district bench from 1954 to 1956, the 8th Circuit from 1956 to 1957, and then was on the Supreme Court from 1957 to 1962.
Soronel Haetir (mail):
By modern standards that seems like an incredibly short stint as a federal judge.
5.26.2009 2:17pm
Dave N (mail):
Soronel Haetir,

By ANY standard, David Souter had an an incredibly short stint as a federal judge (from May 25, 2000 to October 19, 2000) before becoming a Supreme Court Justice (heck, he was NOMINATED for the Court on the two-month anniversary of taking his seat on the Court of Appeals).

(And yes, I know Justice Souter was also a state judge for 12 years before joining the federal bench).
5.26.2009 2:45pm
Dave N (mail):
Oops, mistyped, the dates should have been May 25, 1990 to October 19, 1990. The point still stands, however.

And yes, Preview IS my friend.
5.26.2009 2:48pm
Clarence Thomas spent a bit more than 18 months on the DC Circuit before moving to SCOTUS. [Commission to COA was 3/6/90; SCOTUS commission 10/18/91.]

And that matters because . . .
5.26.2009 3:16pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
But aren't justices also judges? The total time Whittaker spent in Art 3 offices seems quite short.

I suppose I should look to see if something happened to Whittaker to shorten his SCOTUS tenure.
5.26.2009 3:24pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Ah, he evidently just couldn't handle the job. The Peter Principal at work it would seem.
5.26.2009 3:37pm
Dave N (mail):
Soronel Haetir,

Evidently, Justice Whittaker had a nervous breakdown and was persuaded by Chief Justice Warren to retire as a Senior Justice.

Whittaker subsequently resigned as a Senior Justice so that he could become Chief Counsel for General Motors.
5.26.2009 3:38pm
Ira Brad Matetsky:
Now name the only otherperson to have served as a U.S. District Judge, a U.S. Circuit Judge, and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
5.26.2009 10:57pm
Dave N (mail):
Ira Brad Matesky,

Good question. The answer is Samuel Blatchford, appointed by President Arthur.

BTW, the Whittaker page I linked to in the post above yours had this information.
5.26.2009 11:49pm
Ira Brad Matetsky:
Dave N: That's because I put it there three years ago ... I have to think ahead when I edit and stop ruining my own trivia questions!
5.27.2009 12:17am
Dave N: That's because I put it there three years ago ... I have to think ahead when I edit and stop ruining my own trivia questions!

Now that's funny.
5.27.2009 1:19am
In fairness, there were no circuit courts of appeal to advance to in roughly the first century of the federal judiciary.
5.27.2009 3:27pm

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