Robe & Gavel: SCOTUS begins February sitting

Welcome to the Feb. 22 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

With the scent of roses yet in the air and the taste of chocolates and sweet treats fresh in our memories, we come to the February argument session of the U.S. Supreme Court. Let’s gavel in, shall we?

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SCOTUS has accepted one new case to its merits docket since our Feb. 7 issue. 

On Feb. 18, the court granted review in the case Biden v. Texas, originating from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and concerning both the Administrative Procedure Act and the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also referred to as the remain in Mexico policy, which required non-citizens seeking asylum at the United States’ southern border to remain in Mexico while awaiting their immigration proceedings. The case will be scheduled for argument during this term’s April sitting.

To date, the court has agreed to hear 66 cases for the 2021-2022 term. SCOTUS dismissed four cases after they were accepted and removed one case from the argument calendar after both parties agreed to settle. Ten cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments. The court has also accepted three cases for its 2022-2023 term.


The Supreme Court will hear arguments in three cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases: 

Feb. 22

  • Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas concerns the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act (1987), the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) (1988), gaming regulation on tribal lands, and the sovereign authority of Native American tribal nations. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 
  • Denezpi v. United States involves the Court of Indian Offenses’ jurisdiction, the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy clause prohibiting individuals from being prosecuted for the same crime twice, and the dual-sovereignty doctrine. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 

Feb. 23

In its October 2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 62 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.


SCOTUS has not issued opinions since our Feb. 7 edition. The court has issued rulings in eight cases so far this term, two of which were decided without argument. 

Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS issued opinions in 1,062 cases, deciding an average of 70 to 90 cases per year.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Feb. 18: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices. 
  • Feb. 22: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Feb. 23: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • Feb. 25: SCOTUS will conference. 

SCOTUS trivia

Justice Stephen Breyer authored six majority opinions during the court’s last term. In which of the following cases did he not write the court’s opinion?

  1. Trump v. New York
  2. Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.
  3. AMG Capital Management, LLC v. Federal Trade Commission
  4. Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc.

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action


President Joe Biden (D) has announced no new Article III nominees since our Feb. 7 edition.

The president has announced 82 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee has reported three new nominees out of committee since our Feb. 7 edition. 

One nominee was not reported favorably:

  • Jessica Clarke, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York


The Senate has confirmed one new nominee since our Feb. 7 issue.


The federal judiciary currently has 80 vacancies, 78 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of publication, there were 26 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, there were 37 upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary, where judges have announced their intention to leave active status.

For more information on judicial vacancies during the Biden administration, click here.

Note: This chart is updated at the start of each month with the latest vacancy data from U.S. Courts

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

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

Hello, gentle readers! Welcome back to our journey through federal judicial history. Today, we get a two-for-one as we highlight President Grover Cleveland’s (D) judicial nominees from 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897.

During his time in office, the U.S. Senate confirmed 44 of President Cleveland’s judicial nominees—17 in his first term, and 27 in his second term. Two nominees were withdrawn. The Senate rejected or did not vote on eight nominees.

Among the most notable appointees were four Supreme Court Justices:

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on Feb. 28 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 


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