Did March come in like a lion for you, dear reader? Well, we’re roaring with excitement this week as we travel through the vista of federal judicial vacancy data. Let’s buckle up, gavel in, and get this adventure started!
We #SCOTUS and you can, too!
SCOTUS has not accepted any new cases since our Feb. 28 issue. 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 not hear oral arguments this week. The court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments for its March sitting on March 21. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.
SCOTUS has issued five rulings since our Feb. 28 edition. The court has decided 11 cases so far this term, two of which were decided without argument.
- In Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C., the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit’s ruling in an 8-1 decision. The court held that the 6th Circuit erred in denying Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s motion to intervene and defend the statewide law criminalizing the performance of the dilation and evacuation abortion method (“D&E”) prior to performing the procedure.
Justice Samuel Alito authored the court’s majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Elena Kagan filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion.
- In United States v. Zubaydah, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling on a 7-2 vote and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court decided the 9th Circuit erred in holding, in the context of Zubaydah’s discovery application, that the state-secrets privilege did not apply to information that could confirm or deny the existence of a CIA detention site in Poland.
Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the opinion of the court except for parts Parts II-B-2 and III. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the opinion in full. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined Part IV. Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, joined by Alito. Justice Elena Kagan joined as to all but Parts III and IV and the judgment of dismissal. She also filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined. Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joined as to all but Part II-B-2. Kavanaugh filed an opinion concurring in part, in which Barrett joined.
- In United States v. Tsarnev, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit’s ruling in a 6-3 decision and reinstated the death sentence for Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The court found that the 1st Circuit improperly overturned Tsarnaev’s death sentence and erred in finding that the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts abused its discretion during jury selection and sentencing.
Justice Thomas delivered the majority opinion. Justice Barrett filed a concurring opinion joined by Justice Gorsuch. Justice Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor.
- In Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s holding and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court’s 9-0 decision found that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does not displace the state-secrets privilege.
Justice Alito wrote the opinion for the unanimous court.
- In Wooden v. United States, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit’s holding in a 9-0 decision. The court found that William Wooden’s 10 prior burglary convictions arose from a single criminal episode in 1997, and therefore did not count as different occasions for purposes of sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act.
Justice Kagan delivered the court’s opinion. Justices Sotomayor, Kavanaugh, Barrett and Gorsuch each filed a concurring opinion.
Upcoming SCOTUS dates
Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:
- March 7: SCOTUS will release orders.
- March 18: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
- March 21: SCOTUS begins its March argument sitting.
Justice William Douglas was the longest-serving associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, with a 36-year tenure lasting from 1939 to 1975. How many chief justices did Douglas serve with?
Choose an answer to find out!
The Federal Vacancy Count
The February report covers nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from Feb. 2 through March 1.
- Vacancies: There were two new judicial vacancies in February. There were 78 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 80 of 890 active federal judicial positions were vacant.
- Nominations: There were two new nominations.
- Confirmations: There was one new confirmation.
Vacancy count for March 1, 2022
A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies in the federal courts, click here.
*Though the U.S. territorial courts are named as district courts, they are not Article III courts. They are established by Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Click here for more information.
Two judges left active status since the previous report, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies. The president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial positions. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.
- Judge Leonard Stark left the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware upon his elevation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
- Judge Virginia Phillips assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
U.S. District Court vacancies
The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of March 1, 2022.
President Joe Biden (D) announced two new nominations since the January report.
- Stephanie Dawkins Davis, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the U.S. Supreme Court
Biden 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.
The U.S. Senate confirmed one nominee since the previous report.
As of March 1, 2022, the Senate had confirmed 46 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—32 district court judges and 14 appeals court judges.
Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)
- Presidents have appointed an average of 32 judges through March 1 of their second year in office.
- Biden made the most appointments through March 1 of his second year with 46, followed by President Ronald Reagan (R) with 44. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 16.
- 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.
We’ll be back on March 21 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out!