NEW ORLEANS – Federal Judge Helen Ginger Berrigan has retired from active service in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and will enter semi-retired "senior" status. She submitted the requisite documents to President Obama on Aug. 23.
A Harrisburg district court will consider whether a City of Harrisburg buffer zone law violates free speech. | Photo by Evlakhov Valeriy, Shutterstock
The announcement from Berrigan allows Obama or the next president to nominate a new judge. In terms of her workload, she is expected to handle a lower number of cases following her semi-retirement. Judges qualify for senior status when they turn 65 and reach 15 years of service.
Berrigan has met all the age and service requirements under 28 U.S.C. § 371(b), which means she is eligible to assume senior status. Based on this provision, a justice or judge who satisfies the conditions set forth by the law may retain his or her office but will be considered retired from active service. He or she will also continue to receive full salary for life.
To continue fulfilling the requirements of the provision, Berrigan’s caseload every year must reach the same amount as those handled by an average judge in three months. Some judicial duties are also assigned to the senior judge in accordance with the requirements.
Nov. 18, 1993, marked the beginning of Berrigan’s life as a federal judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, when then-President Bill Clinton nominated her to the seat. At the time, the position had just been vacated by Patrick E. Carr. On March 10, 1994, Berrigan was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She also received her commission on the same date. She served as chief judge from 2001 to 2008, then assumed senior status this year.
Prior to landing the seat as federal judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Berrigan had a private practice in New Orleans from 1978 to 1994. Before that, she served under the Governor's Pardon, Parole and Rehabilitation Commission as a staff attorney from 1977 to 1978.
Berrigan received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1969 at the University of Wisconsin. In 1971, she completed her Master of Arts at American University. Her Juris Doctor, which she completed in 1977, was from the Louisiana State University Law School.
In addition to Berrigan, Clinton also nominated Stanwood Duval, who qualified for senior status in 2008. Mary Ann Lemmon, who became a senior judge of the Eastern District of Louisiana in 2011, received her nomination from Clinton as well.
Ivan Lemelle, who was also nominated by the same president, attained senior status in 2015. Upon his retirement, Obama selected Claude J. Kelly III as a potential replacement.
Obama has yet to choose a nominee for the seat being vacated by Berrigan.
The Eastern District of Louisiana is located in New Orleans. It covers the parishes of Assumption, Washington, St. Bernard, St. James, St. Tammany, Terrebone, Plaquemines, St. Charles, Jefferson, Lafourche, Orleans, St. John the Baptist and Tangipahoa.