News & Announcements

Baton Passing Brings New Chief Judge to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

July 10, 2023

On July 9, 2023, the Honorable Albert Diaz became the eleventh chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, a position created by Congress in 1948. Chief Judge Diaz is the first Hispanic judge to serve the Fourth Circuit as chief.

Chief Judge Diaz succeeds Judge Roger L. Gregory, who has served with distinction as chief judge for his seven-year term. During Chief Judge Gregory’s term, the court greatly expanded the use of technology to improve operations and make the judicial process more accessible to the public. He welcomed multiple new judges, mourned the deaths of longtime colleagues, weathered several government shutdowns and budget setbacks, established the Fourth Circuit Essay Contest for high school students, and managed the Fourth Circuit’s response to COVID-19 and the continuity of justice as the courts adapted to virtual proceedings. Judge Gregory will continue to serve the court as an active judge. Judge Gregory said that it was an extreme honor and pleasure to serve as Chief Judge of the Fourth Circuit. He expressed his gratitude to his fellow judges and to court staff for their steadfast support. He also noted that he is happy to have been succeeded by now Chief Judge Diaz. “His immense abilities and unfailing character will make him an exceptional leader of the Fourth Circuit. I look forward to supporting him.” 

“Judge Gregory’s selfless leadership has ensured smooth sailing for the Court, even in the roughest of seas,” said Chief Judge Diaz about his predecessor. “He’s led with courage, conviction, compassion, clarity, and kindness. And he’s done so with self-effacing modesty, always deflecting praise, and lifting others up. I do not envy having to succeed him, even as I pledge to do my best.”

In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Judge Diaz to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Before that appointment, from 2001 to 2009, Judge Diaz served on the North Carolina Superior Court bench, including service on North Carolina’s Business Court. In the Marines, he served as a prosecutor, defense counsel, and appellate government counsel. He continued his service in the Marine Reserves, serving as appellate defense counsel, military trial judge, and appellate military judge. He retired from the Marines in 2006 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Chief Judge Diaz earned his B.S. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, his J.D. from the New York University School of Law, and his M.S. in Business Administration from Boston University.

As chief judge, Judge Diaz assumes a variety of administrative responsibilities. In addition to hearing cases, he is the executive officer of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Chair of the Judicial Council of the Fourth Circuit, which oversees the administration of the Court of Appeals, as well as the federal trial and bankruptcy courts in the Districts of Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Chief Judge Diaz is also responsible for representing the Fourth Circuit in biannual meetings of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the judiciary's national policy-making body.

By law, selection of the chief judge of a federal circuit or district court is based on seniority and age. The most senior active judge under the age of 65 is eligible to serve as chief judge for a term of up to seven years, as authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 45.