Nguyen v. United States, 539 U.S. 69, 7 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 69 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

dicial districts, as follows [listing districts]"). Lastly, Chapter 5 describes "district judges" as holding office "during good behavior." 134(a).

Taking these provisions together, 292(a) cannot be read to permit the designation to the court of appeals of a judge of the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands. Significantly, the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands is not one of the courts constituted by Chapter 5 of Title 28, nor is that court even mentioned within Chapter 5.7 See 133(a). Because the judges of the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands are appointed for a term of years and may be removed by the President for cause, they also do not satisfy the command for district judges within the meaning of Title 28 to hold office during good behavior. 134(a).

The Government agrees these statutory provisions are best read together as not permitting the Chief Judge of the Northern Mariana Islands to sit by designation on the Ninth Circuit. The Government maintains, however, that the erroneous designation in these cases was not plainly impermissible because Title 28 does not expressly forbid it or explicitly define the term "district judge" separately from the term "district court." This contention requires an excessively strained interpretation of the statute. To be sure, a literal reading of the words "district judges" in isolation from the rest of the statute might arguably justify assigning the Chief Judge of the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands for service on the Court of Appeals, for he is called a "district judge" of a court "within the [Ninth] [C]ircuit." But a literal reading of that sort is so capacious that it would also justify the designation of "district judges" of any number of

7 The District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands is instead established in Chapter 17 of Title 48 ("Territories and Insular Possessions"). See 1821.

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