Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for April 1

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April sitting

The Supreme Court will begin its April argument session next week, hearing cases remotely and streaming live argument audio to the public. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19.

The court will hear arguments in the following cases:

April 19

April 20

April 21

Grants

SCOTUS accepted two cases since our March 29 issue for a total of two hours of oral argument. Both cases originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The 6th Circuit holds jurisdiction over Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

The cases will be scheduled for argument during the court’s 2021-2022 October term, which begins on October 4, 2021. To date, the court has accepted 10 cases for the term. 

  • Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C. concerns whether a state official may intervene in a case to defend a state law that has been invalidated and Fourteenth Amendment protections of a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. 
  • Brown v. Davenport concerns the standard necessary to grant federal habeas relief to a person held in state custody. U.S. federal courts can use writs of habeas corpus to determine if a state’s detention of a prisoner is valid. 

Opinions

SCOTUS issued five opinions since our March 29 issue. The court has issued 26 opinions so far this term. Five cases were decided without argument.

March 29

  • Mays v. Hines (Decided without argument)
    • In an 8-1 per curiam ruling, the 6th Circuit ruling was reversed.

April 1

April 5

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • April 16: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • April 19:
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in three cases.
  • April 20: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases
  • April 21: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 23: SCOTUS will conference. 

SCOTUS trivia

Supreme Court justices are known for their landmark decisions and fashion choices of robes, collars, and jabots. During which court term did the Justices first start wearing robes?

  1. 1792
  2. 1912
  3. 1801
  4. 1799

Choose an answer to find out!

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 March 1 to April 1. 

Highlights

  • Vacancies: There have been five new judicial vacancies since the February 2021 report. There are 69 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 73 of 890 active federal judicial positions were vacant at the time of the report.
  • Nominations: There have been 10 new nominations announced since the February 2021 report.
  • Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the February 2021 report.

Vacancy count for April 1, 2021

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

Five judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, the president nominates individuals to fill the vacancies. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of April 1, 2021.

New nominations

As of April 1, 2021, President Joe Biden (D) announced his intent to nominate 10 individuals to Article III judgeships. 

President Biden also announced his intent to nominate Rupa Ranga Puttagunta to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

The official nominations of these judges have not been submitted to the U.S. Senate as of this writing.

New confirmations

As of April 1, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

As of April 1 of the first year of President Donald Trump’s presidency, the U.S. Senate had not confirmed any Article III judicial nominees.

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, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Welcome to the ‘80s! There’s a new Hall & Oates album playing, the Lakers and Celtics just went into overtime, and everybody’s cutting footloose. But before we head to the mall (or back to the future), let’s take a look at President Ronald Reagan’s (R) judicial nominees from 1981 to 1989.


During his two terms in office, President Reagan had 402 judges successfully nominated and confirmed to the federal bench. Of those, 382 were to Article III judgeships. Among the most notable of these are Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Antonin Scalia. Reagan also nominated William Rehnquist to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. 

When President Reagan assumed office in January 1981, he inherited 34 life-term vacancies out of 660 total Article III judgeships (5.15%). Reagan inherited the second-lowest vacancy percentage of all presidents since 1981. President George H.W. Bush had a lower vacancy percentage when he assumed office, 4.89%. 

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–President Reagan appointed 83 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 290 judges to U.S. district courts, and six judges to the U.S. Court of International Trade

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on April 19 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag, Jace Lington, and Sara Reynolds.




About the author

Kate Carsella

Kate Carsella is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.