Welcome to the August 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.
We are officially in the dog days of summer, dear readers! SCOTUS is still on its summer break, but there’s plenty of federal judicial activity on the docket. Let’s gavel in, shall we?
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We’re between October Terms when the court isn’t releasing opinions or hearing arguments.
Before the next term starts, let’s take a brief look at what happened during the 2020-2021 term:
- The court agreed to hear 62 cases during the term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term, but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Five cases were removed from the argument calendar.
- The court issued 67 opinions. Two cases were decided in one consolidated opinion. Ten cases were decided without argument.
- Since 2007, SCOTUS issued opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year. During that period, the Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision 751 times (70.7 percent) and affirmed a lower court decision 303 times (28.5 percent). Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS decided more cases originating from the Ninth Circuit (207) than from any other U.S. circuit court of appeal.
- For more historical term data, click here.
SCOTUS has not accepted any new cases to its merits docket since our July 19 issue. To date, the court has agreed to hear 31 cases for the 2021-2022 term. Two cases were dismissed after they were accepted.
SCOTUS has not scheduled any more cases for argument since our July 19 issue.
As you may recall, the court released the calendar for its October sitting on July 13. It will hear nine hours of oral argument in nine cases between October 4 and October 13.
As a refresher, click the links below to learn more about those cases:
October 4, 2021
October 5, 2021
October 6, 2021
October 12, 2021
October 13, 2021
To date, 20 cases granted review for the upcoming term have not been scheduled for argument.
Upcoming SCOTUS dates
The court held its final conference and issued its final opinions for the 2020-2021 term on July 1, 2021. The court issued its final order list on July 2 before starting its summer recess. The court will resume hearing arguments in October.
True or false: Article III of the Constitution of the United States provides for the creation of the U.S. Supreme Court and its structure.
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 July 2 to August 1.
- Vacancies: There have been two new judicial vacancies since the June 2021 report. There are 80 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, 84 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.
- Nominations: There were no new nominations since the June 2021 report.
- Confirmations: There was one confirmation since the June 2021 report.
Vacancy count for August 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.
Two judges left active status since the previous vacancy count, creating Article III life-term judicial vacanciesThe president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial position vacancies. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.
- Judge William Hayes assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
- Judge John Jones III retired from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The following chart tracks the number of vacancies in the United States Courts of Appeals from President Joe Biden‘s (D) inauguration 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 August 1, 2021.
President Biden announced no new nominations in July.
As of August 1, the Senate has confirmed eight of President Biden’s judicial nominees—five district court judges and three appeals court judges—since January 2021.
- Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
- Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
- Deborah Boardman, to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland
- Lydia Kay Griggsby, to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland
- Julien Xavier Neals, to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
- Zahid Quraishi, to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
- Regina Rodriguez, to the United States District Court for the District of Colorado
- Tiffany Cunningham, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
The first confirmations occurred on June 8, when Julien Neals and Regina Rodriguez were confirmed to their respective courts.
Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed on June 14, was the first confirmed nominee to receive her judicial commission. Jackson was commissioned on June 17.
Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)
- The average number of judicial appointees per president through August 1 of the first year is three. President Biden has made the most, eight, while two presidents had no confirmed Article III judicial nominees in that time: Presidents Bill Clinton (D) and Barack Obama (D).
- President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through his first year with 41. President Obama made the fewest with 13.
- President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments through four years with 234. President Reagan made the fewest through four years with 166.
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 this list for updates on federal judicial nominations.
Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts
Hello, gentle readers! This edition of Bold Justice journeys us to a time somewhere over the rainbow, through a dust bowl and a world war, and across the piano keys with Duke Ellington. Today, we highlight President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (D) federal judicial nominees from 1933 to 1945.
During his time in office, 197 of President Roosevelt’s judicial nominees were confirmed. Four nominees declined their nominations, two were withdrawn, and the U.S. Senate rejected six nominees.
Among the most notable appointees were nine Supreme Court Justices:
- Hugo Black, commissioned in 1937.
- Stanley Reed, commissioned in 1938.
- Felix Frankfurter, commissioned in 1939.
- William Douglas, commissioned in 1939.
- Frank Murphy, commissioned in 1940.
- James Byrnes, commissioned in 1941.
- Harlan Stone, commissioned in 1941.
- Robert Jackson, commissioned in 1941.
- Wiley Rutledge, commissioned in 1943.
President Roosevelt’s first Article III appointee was confirmed on April 12, 1933—Judge Joseph Woodrough to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. By the end of his first year in office, nine of Roosevelt’s nominees had been confirmed–four to U.S. circuit courts, four to U.S. district courts, and one to the U.S. Customs Court.
Roosevelt averaged 17.1 judicial appointments per year. For comparison, President Jimmy Carter (D) had the highest average from 1901 to 2021 with 65.5 appointments per year.
We’ll be back on September 13 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.