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William J. Kayatta - CONFIRMED
United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
On January 23, 2012, President Obama nominated William J. Kayatta, Jr. to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Kayatta is currently a partner at Pierce Atwood LLP in Portland, Maine. President Obama has said that “I am confident . . . William J. Kayatta will serve the American people with integrity and distinction.” Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have also spoken strongly in support of Kayatta’s nomination.
William J. Kayatta, Jr. was born in 1953 and raised in South Portland, Maine. He received his B.A. from Amherst University in 1976, graduating with high honors, and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1979, graduating magna cum laude. Upon receiving his law degree, Kayatta clerked until 1980 for Judge Frank M. Coffin on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. After his clerkship, Kayatta joined Pierce Atwood LLP as an associate, and became a partner in 1986.
At Pierce Atwood, Kayatta has primarily represented large corporations in complex litigation involving energy regulation, ERISA, antitrust, construction, banking, and class actions.
Kayatta has twice argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. In UNUM Life Insurance Co. v. Ward,3 an insured beneficiary sought benefits after failing to provide a timely claim notice to his insurer. Kayatta, as lead counsel for the insurer, argued that ERISA preempted both a California rule, which says that insurance companies cannot deny coverage for lateness of notice except when that lateness is harmful to the insurer, and the common-law agency rule, under which employers may act as agents of insurance companies in receiving claims. The Court unanimously ruled that ERISA preempted the common-law agency rule, but not the California rule.
In S.D. Warren Co. v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection,4 the Court had to determine whether S.D. Warren’s hydroelectric dam was “discharging” water into a river when it collected and then re-routed that water into the same river. Kayatta, as counsel for S.D. Warren, argued that the water re-routed into the river was not of the kind that the Clean Water Act was intended to regulate. The Court ruled unanimously against Kayatta’s client.
Kayatta has also undertaken a number of pro bono representations. For instance, as lead counsel in Risinger v. Concannon he brought a state-wide class action in on behalf of children who were denied prescribed in-home mental health services under Medicaid. The class was successfully certified and the State eventually agreed to the programmatic and procedural changes sought in the action.
Kayatta was admitted to the Maine bar in 1980. He has been a member of the American Law Institute since 2005 and has served on the Advisory Committee on Maine Rules of Civil Procedure since 2008. In 2010 he was appointed to the Board of Regents of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Kayatta is active in the American Bar Association, and, while serving on the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, voted to rate Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as “Well Qualified.” Kayatta has also been a strong supporter of legal aid organizations. In 2006 he chaired the Campaign for Justice, an organization that funds legal aid providers in Maine.
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