New Jersey judge becomes latest Obama appointee to resign early

U.S. District Judge John Vazquez
U.S. District Judge John Vazquez appears before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., for his nomination hearing on July 22, 2015. U.S. Senate/Handout via REUTERS
  • U.S. District Judge John Vazquez to leave bench in September
  • Several other Obama-appointees have resigned to join law firms

(Reuters) - A federal judge in New Jersey has announced plans to resign in September, becoming the latest appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama to leave the bench early before reaching retirement age.

U.S. District Judge John Vazquez, 52, disclosed his plans in a notice posted on the judiciary's vacancies website on Thursday, becoming the sixth Obama-appointed judge since August to resign or announce plans to do so before hitting age 65.

That's the age at which federal judges who have completed at least 15 years of service can retire or take senior status, a form of semi-retirement.

The judges' departures are unlikely to tilt the courts' ideologically, since Democratic President Joe Biden can nominate their successors. Experts say financial factors might explain why some judges choose to leave lifetime positions early.

"That late-40s to early-50s range is around when some people's kids reach college age, and the reality of paying college tuition kicks in," said John Collins, a law professor at George Washington University.

The reasons for Vasquez's resignation were not immediately clear. He had been a partner at the law firm Critchley, Kinum & Vazquez prior to the Senate confirming him to a position as a district court judge in January 2016.

Vasquez did not respond to requests for comment.

The judges who have recently resigned before becoming eligible to retire or take senior status include Gregg Costa, a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who in August left the bench to join Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Former U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon in the Northern District of Alabama left that same month to join Perkins Coie's Seattle office.

In January, former Chicago-based U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman joined Latham & Watkins, and a month later, U.S. District Judge George Hazel in Maryland joined Gibson Dunn.

Hazel, who had two children approaching college age, said the salary difference between his $232,600-a-year job as a judge and the position at the law firm was "absolutely a factor."

At Gibson Dunn, average profits per equity partner in 2021 were $4.4 million, according to The American Lawyer.

Also leaving the bench soon is U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Watford, a member of the San-Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who in May plans to leave the judiciary to return to private practice.

Read more:

From bench to big law: Why Judge Hazel is the latest to hang up his robe

Federal judge leaves Chicago bench for Latham law firm

9th Circuit's Watford, onetime Supreme Court contender, to resign

Resigning 5th Circuit Judge Costa set to join Gibson Dunn

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at