Bold Justice: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for May 1

Bold Justice

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!


Last week, SCOTUS held its final argument session of the term, hearing an hour of oral argument in one case during a rare May sitting.

During the 2019-2020 term, the Supreme Court heard 10 hours of oral argument in 13 cases during its May argument session. Those cases had been postponed from earlier sittings due to public health recommendations in response to COVID-19. According to SCOTUSblog, the last time the Supreme Court held a full May sitting was during its October 1968 term.

Here’s a breakdown of the hours of oral argument the court heard during each of this term’s argument sessions:

Twelve of the cases heard this term were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Five cases were removed from the argument calendar. Seven cases were decided without argument.

Looking ahead, SCOTUS has accepted 14 cases to its merits docket for the 2021 October Term. Argument dates in those cases are currently pending.


SCOTUS has not accepted any new cases since our May 3 issue. 


SCOTUS has not issued any opinions in cases since our May 3 issue. 

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • May 13: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • May 17: SCOTUS will release orders. 
  • May 20: SCOTUS will conference. 
  • May 24: SCOTUS will release orders.
  • May 27: SCOTUS will conference. 

SCOTUS trivia

True or false: In order to be a Supreme Court justice, one must be a lawyer or a law school graduate.

  1. True
  2. False

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 April 1 to May 1. 


Vacancy count for May 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

Six 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 May 1, 2021.

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) announced three new nominations since the March 2021 report.

New confirmations

As of May 1, 2021, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

As of May 1 of the first year of President Donald Trump’s (R) presidency, the U.S. Senate had confirmed one of Trump’s Article III judicial nominees–U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

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

Through the sands of time, some bead curtains, and hopefully some Motown records, the time has come today! We continue our time-journey by stopping over at an era known as November 1963 through January 1969. Today’s edition of Bold Justice highlights President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s (D) federal judicial nominees.

While serving in the White House, President Johnson nominated 180 individuals to Article III judgeships who were confirmed to the bench. Among the most notable appointees were Supreme Court Justices Abe Fortas and Thurgood Marshall. Fortas was nominated and commissioned in 1965. Marshall was nominated and commissioned in 1967. 

President Johnson made his first successful Article III appointments by April 1 of his first year in office–three nominees were confirmed to U.S. district courts. By the end of his first year in office, 21 of Johnson’s nominees had been confirmed. Throughout his tenure as president, Johnson averaged 34.1 judicial appointments per year. For comparison, President Jimmy Carter (D) had the highest average from 1901 to 2021 with 65.5 appointments per year.  

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–President Johnson appointed 44 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 126 judges to U.S. district courts, and eight judges to the U.S. Court of International Trade

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on June 7 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 


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