Robe & Gavel: SCOTUS concludes February sitting

Welcome to the Feb. 28 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

… Did you hear something? Could it be… changing seasons approach? The first breaths of spring? One can hope. Last week, President Biden nominated U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. This week, SCOTUS concludes its February sitting, with the March argument session fast approaching. Let’s gavel in and see what’s new on the docket, shall we?

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SCOTUS has accepted three new cases to its merits docket since our Feb. 22 issue. 

On Feb. 18, the court granted review in the following cases:

The court accepted Haaland v. Brackeen (Consolidated with Cherokee Nation v. Brackeen, Texas v. Haaland, and Brackeen v. Haaland) the morning of Feb. 28. The case concerns the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), governing the removal of out-of-home placement of American Indian children, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

To date, the court has agreed to hear six cases during its 2022-2023 term. The court has not yet scheduled any of the cases for argument.

In the current 2021-2022 term, the court has agreed to hear 66 cases. Ten have yet to be scheduled for arguments.


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

Click the links below to learn more about these cases: 

Feb. 28

  • West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (Consolidated with North American Coal Corporation v. Environmental Protection Agency, Westmoreland Mining Holdings v. Environmental Protection Agency, and North Dakota v. Environmental Protection Agency) involves the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under the Clean Air Act. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 

March 1

  • Ruan v. United States (Consolidated with Kahn v. United States) concerns whether a physician prescribing controlled substances can be convicted for unlawful distribution of the drugs, regardless of whether the doctor believed they made the prescriptions in good faith. Click here to learn more about the cases’ background details. 
  • Marietta Memorial Hospital Employee Health Benefit Plan v. DaVita, Inc. concerns the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSPA). The MSPA prohibits group health plans from considering a plan participant’s eligibility when the individual has end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and also prohibits plans from providing different benefits to these individuals compared to other covered participants. The case also involves a circuit split over how much plans must reimburse their members for dialysis treatment costs. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 

March 2

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


SCOTUS issued one opinion since our Feb. 22 edition. The court has issued rulings in nine cases so far this term, two of which were decided without argument. 

In Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP, the court ruled in a 6-3 vote to vacate the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruling and remand the case for further proceedings. The court held that either a mistake of legal or factual knowledge can excuse a copyright registration inaccuracy. Justice Stephen Breyer authored the majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, joined by Justice Samuel Alito in full and by Justice Neil Gorsuch except for Part II.

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. 28: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 1: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • March 2: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 3: SCOTUS is expected to issue opinions.
  • March 4: 
    • SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices. 
    • SCOTUS is expected to issue opinions.
  • March 7: SCOTUS will issue orders.

SCOTUS trivia

Justice Stephen Breyer was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994 to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Harry Blackmun. From which court was Justice Breyer elevated?

  1. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  2. U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
  3. U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
  4. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action


President Joe Biden (D) has announced one new Article III nominee since our Feb. 22 edition.

On Feb. 25, 2022, President Biden announced his intent to nominate U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, to fill the upcoming vacancy upon the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the country’s highest judicial body.

The president has announced 83 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 no new nominees out of committee since our Feb. 22 edition. 


The Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our Feb. 22 issue. As of this writing, 46 of President Biden’s Article III nominees have been confirmed since he assumed office.


The federal judiciary currently has 80 vacancies, 78 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of this writing, there were 36 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, there were 38 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! Let us return to our journey through federal judicial history. Today, we highlight President Chester A. Arthur’s (R) judicial nominees from 1881 to 1885.

During his time in office, the U.S. Senate confirmed 23 of President Arthur’s judicial nominees. One nominee withdrew and one declined their nomination.

Among the most notable appointees were two Supreme Court Justices:

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on March 7 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.