Only one U.S. Court of Appeal vacancy

Ballotpedia's Bold Justice

Welcome to the March 9 edition of Bold Justice, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S. Lost track of the judiciary over Super Tuesday? We’ve got you covered! Catch up on the latest news by following us on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.

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The Supreme Court justices will not hear arguments this week. The court will next hear arguments on March 23. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.


SCOTUS has ruled on one case since our March 2 issue. The court has issued rulings in 12 cases so far this term.

Click the links below to read more about the specific case SCOTUS ruled on since March 2:

  • March 3

    • Kansas v. Garcia was argued before the court on October 16, 2019.

      The case: Ramiro Garcia, Donaldo Morales, and Guadalupe Ochoa-Lara were convicted of identity theft in Johnson County, Kansas. In each case, prosecutors used Social Security numbers found on I-9 and W-4 employment forms as evidence of identity theft. Garcia, Morales, and Ochoa-Lara appealed their convictions, arguing the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) preempted their prosecution. On appeal, the Kansas Supreme Court reversed the three convictions.

      The outcome: In a 5-4 opinion, the court reversed and remanded the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision, holding the Kansas statutes under which Garcia, Morales, and Ochoa-Lara were convicted “are not expressly preempted.”

      Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Neil Gorsuch joined. Justice Stephen Breyer filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan joined.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest in March:

  • March 9: 

    • SCOTUS will release orders and/or opinions.

  • March 20: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

  • March 23:

    • SCOTUS will release orders and/or opinions.

    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.

  • March 24: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.

  • March 25: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.

  • March 27: SCOTUS will conference.

The Federal Vacancy Count

The Federal Vacancy Count tracks vacancies, nominations, and confirmations to all United States Article III federal courts in a one-month period. This month’s edition includes nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from February 4 to March 2.


  • Vacancies: There has been one new judicial vacancy since the January 2020 report. As of March 3, 72 (or 8.3%) of 870 active Article III judicial positions on the courts covered in this report were vacant.

    Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 78 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

  • Nominations: There have been 10 new nominations since the January 2020 report.

  • Confirmations: There have been six new confirmations since the January 2020 report.

Vacancy count for March 2, 2020

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies on the federal courts, click here.

*Though the United States territorial courts are named as district courts, they are not Article III courts. They are created in accordance with the power granted under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Click here for more information.

New vacancies

One judge left active status, creating an Article III vacancy. As an Article III judicial position, this vacancy must be filled by a presidential nomination. Nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R) to March 2.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancy

Judge E. Grady Jolly assumed senior status on October 3, 2017, creating a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. This is currently the only vacancy on a U.S. Court of Appeal. The last time this occurred was in July 1984, when Judge John Butzner‘s seat on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals was the only vacancy. There is currently no nominee pending to replace Jolly.

As of publication, there are two upcoming Court of Appeals vacancies. Andrew Brasher was already confirmed to succeed Judge Ed Carnes on the 11th Circuit. Carnes is expected to assume senior status on June 30. Judge Thomas Griffith announced he would retire from the court on September 1. There is no nominee pending for Griffith’s seat.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map displays federal district court vacancies as of March 2.

New nominations

President Trump has announced 10 new nominations since the January 2020 report.

  • David Dugan, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

  • Iain D. Johnston, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

  • Franklin U. Valderrama, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

  • Christy Wiegand, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

  • Saritha Komatireddy, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

  • Jennifer Rearden, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

  • J. Philip Calabrese, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

  • James Knepp II, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

  • Brett H. Ludwig, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

  • Michael J. Newman, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

The president has announced 249 Article III judicial nominations since taking office January 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017, 92 in 2018, and 77 in 2019. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

Between February 4 and March 2, 2020, the Senate confirmed six of the president’s nominees to Article III courts.

Since January 2017, the Senate has confirmed 193 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—138 district court judges, 51 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, if you prefer, we also maintain a list of individuals President Trump has nominated.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back March 23 with a new edition of Bold Justice. 

Click here to learn more.