U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey's retirement last week is likely to be the first in a series of departures by Republican judicial appointees now that the election is over, administration officials predict.
Even if other aging GOP judges don't leave, President Reagan has 102 federal court vacancies to fill -- 75 of them new seats created by Congress last July and 27 of them opened in recent months by retirements.
The White House judicial selection committee is hoping to move with record speed and have candidates lined up for all the vacancies by the end of January.
There are no strong front-runners for Wilkey's seat or a new seat on the 12-member appeals court. The latter seat was to have been filled by Deputy Solicitor General Paul M. Bator, but Bator withdrew his name.
Word is that Loren A. Smith, chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States, has been putting out the word that he would be happy to take one of those seats. "I hope I would be considered," he said.
The best bet of the week, however, has CIA general counsel Stanley Sporkin's name being sent back to the Senate for a U.S. District Court vacancy here.
Sporkin, former head of the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission, had been nominated at the behest of his boss, CIA Director William J. Casey. But Sporkin ran into some opposition from the business community and from people who did not think him conservative enough. His nomination was sent back to the White House until after the election. COURT PACKING? . . .
There are still only nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, although D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I recently had some people wondering.
Eyes rolled in the packed ceremonial courtroom at the D.C. Courthouse as Moultrie, presiding over the investiture of a new judge, twice referred to a distinguished guest as "Justice Blackburn," according to attendees.
Justice Harry A. Blackmun was there to swear in a former clerk, Robert Richter, who has worked in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section.
Moultrie, soon realizing the gaffe, later joked that he didn't have the authority to appoint a 10th Supreme Court justice. JUDGING THE JUDGE . . .
Judge Frank M. Johnson of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the arch-foe of southern segregationists in the 1950s and 60s, has been chosen to receive the Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award.
"The quiet courage of Judge Johnson in protecting constitutionally guaranteed rights, his competence . . . and work in improving judicial administration have marked him as one of the nation's outstanding judges," Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Devitt said in announcing Johnson's selection.
Devitt, Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. and Chief Judge James R. Browning of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals selected Johnson for the award. He is to receive it, along with an engraved crystal obelisk and a $10,000 check, in a ceremony later this month.