WASHINGTON, D.C. — A nationally known trial lawyer from Cape Elizabeth on Wednesday cleared the first hurdle toward a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, which is based in Boston.
William Kayatta Jr., 58, underwent a confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He now faces approval by the committee and the full Senate. Dates have yet to be set for those actions.
If confirmed, Kayatta would succeed Judge Kermit Lipez, who on Jan. 1 took active senior status after having served in that role since 1998. Lipez has agreed to maintain a full caseload through the end of the summer, according to members of Maine’s congressional delegation.
A partner with Pierce Atwood of Portland with more than 30 years of legal experience, Kayatta was appointed to the federal judgeship last month by President Barack Obama. He grew up in South Portland and graduated from Amherst College and Harvard Law School, according to his profile on Pierce Atwood’s website.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe both spoke in support of his appointment during Wednesday’s confirmation hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Kayatta’s wife, Anne, and one of his two daughters were in the audience. His other daughter had a job interview at the time. Among those watching through a live stream were his parents and colleagues at Pierce Atwood in Portland.
“Through his reputation for excellence in handling complicated matters, Bill Kayatta has developed a law practice national in scope,” Snowe said in introducing Kayatta to the committee. “He is admitted to practice in no fewer than five federal circuits and has been a lead counsel in sophisticated class action liability cases from Maine to Florida to Delaware to California involving both major corporations and individuals.”
She noted that Kayatta has argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, submitted merits briefs on three other cases and worked on certiorari briefs in six more cases.
“This is a case of the president selecting a superbly qualified nominee, who can and should attract strong, bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee,” Snowe said. “A tremendous steward of the common good, especially the cause of access to justice for all, Bill could not be more qualified to be a circuit court judge and I strongly support his nomination.”
Collins also said Kayatta would be an asset to the federal circuit court.
“Maine has a long, proud history of supplying superb jurists to the federal bench,” she said. “I know that, if confirmed, Mr. Kayatta will continue in that tradition.”
She pressed the committee to move quickly on Kayatta’s nomination.
“While Judge Lipez has agreed to carry a full caseload over to his senior status, he will not carry it beyond September. At that point the caseload would have to be distributed among the remaining five judges,” Collins said. “I urge the committee to act expeditiously on Mr. Kayatta’s nomination to avoid this undesirable outcome.”