Judge Rendell to take on 'senior status'

Judge Marjorie O. Rendell and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell wait together after they announce the finalists for the 2013 Citizenship Challenge Essay Contest during a press event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Nov. 21, 2013. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )

Marjorie O. Rendell, a federal appellate judge and the wife of former Gov. Ed Rendell, said Friday that she plans to leave her spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit this summer and devote more time to her foundation for the civic education of area youth.

Rendell, 67, made her intention to enter a state of semiretirement official last week, but the state's former first lady said she is not done with the law just yet.

In July, Rendell will take "senior status" on the 13-member court, a designation that allows her to hear cases but reduces her workload. The decision clears the way for President Obama to appoint a full-time replacement before the end of his term.

"I'll still be around," Rendell said. "I won't have a vote on all things, but I'll have a voice."

Rendell assumed her seat on the Third Circuit, which hears appeals from federal courts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, in 1997, receiving a nomination from President Bill Clinton.

Throughout her two decades on the court, she has weighed in on cases ranging from last-chance death penalty appeals to less weighty matters, such as the legal flap surrounding whether the Federal Communications Commission acted lawfully when it fined CBS over Janet Jackson's nipple-baring performance during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

She wrote the court's majority opinion in 2011, throwing out a $550,000 fine and finding that the agency effectively changed its policies without warning by punishing the television network for fleeting and accidental nudity.

Rendell's judicial post also allowed her to administer the oath of office to her husband upon his election to the governor's mansion in 2003. Judicial ethics codes prevented her from taking an active role in his campaign.

Before becoming a judge, Rendell worked as a bankruptcy lawyer with the Center City firm of Duane Morris, where she had been named a partner in 1981. She is a graduate of Villanova University Law School.

In 2013, Rendell and her husband, who have been separated since 2011, founded the Rendell Center for Citizenship and Civics in partnership with Arcadia University and the National Constitution Center - an effort to boost youth interest in government and the democratic process.

"I've had a focus on civic engagement ever since I was first lady," she said. "I want to do more of that."


jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-854-2608 @jeremyrroebuck