Day 1 of SCOTUS confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings are underway
  2. A summary of upcoming Supreme Court cases
  3. Fifty-one state legislative districts with no major party competition in North Carolina this year

Day 1 of SCOTUS confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson

The Senate Judiciary Committee held its first day of confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Monday.

The first day of hearings consisted mainly of opening statements from committee members, beginning with chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Thomas Griffith, a former George W. Bush (R) appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Lisa Fairfax, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, also offered introductory remarks. 

The day ended with Jackson’s opening statement.

You can follow our coverage of the confirmation hearing highlights, along with subsequent Senate actions, here.

After the hearings, the committee will vote on whether to advance Jackson’s nomination to a full Senate vote. If advanced, the full Senate may hold a confirmation vote before retiring Justice Stephen Breyer leaves office, with Jackson’s swearing-in date delayed until his departure. 

The average length of a Supreme Court vacancy since 1962, measured from the date of the retirement announcement to the confirmation of a successor, is 132 days. The longest vacancy was between the terms of Antonin Scalia and Neil Gorsuch at 419 days, and the shortest came between the terms of Charles Evans Whittaker and Byron White at 13 days. Breyer officially announced his retirement 54 days ago on Jan. 27.

If Jackson advances to a full Senate vote hers would be the first Supreme Court confirmation to take place in a Senate with a 50-50 partisan split. In recent years, confirmation votes have grown more partisan with more nominees confirmed at or along party lines. From 1967 to the present, nominees have received an average of 29 affirmative votes from senators who don’t caucus with the president’s party. Since Justice Samuel Alito’s confirmation in 2006, that average has decreased to four votes.

Jackson currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. President Joe Biden (D) nominated Jackson to that post in April 2021 and the Senate voted 53-44 to confirm her on June 14, 2021. Three Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)—voted to confirm Jackson.

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A summary of upcoming Supreme Court cases

While the Senate handles the confirmation hearings, the Supreme Court itself will be busy as the next argument session of the current term began Monday. Argument sessions are when justices can directly question attorneys for both sides of a case in open court.

The court will hear four cases during each of the two weeks of arguments for a total of eight cases heard during this March sitting. Here’s a breakdown of what’s on the docket. Click on any of the case titles to learn more:

On argument days, the court convenes at 10 a.m. EDT. The court is hearing arguments in person and providing live audio streams to the public.

The court is scheduled to hear arguments in the remaining 10 cases for the 2021-2022 term during its April sitting from April 18 to April 27. You can see those cases here.

Unless the court accepts additional cases before its summer recess, the April argument sitting is the last scheduled sitting for the current term.

To date, the court has agreed to hear 66 cases during its current term. Four were dismissed and one was removed from the argument calendar. The court has issued decisions in 14 cases, two without argument. Between 2007 and 2020, the court released opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year.

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Fifty-one state legislative districts will be without major party competition in North Carolina this year

Looking ahead at upcoming primaries, we have new research out of North Carolina showing that the number of uncontested state legislative districts grew from 14 in 2020 to 51 this year. We define uncontested districts as those without major party competition, meaning candidates from only one of the two major parties filed to run.

These figures come from research we are conducting after every states’ candidate filing deadline. In North Carolina, candidates had until March 4 to file to run in the state’s 120 state House and 50 state Senate districts. 

Democrats are effectively guaranteed to win 10 of those districts and Republicans are guaranteed 41. Both major parties will contest the remaining 119 districts.

A drop in the number of Democratic challengers drove the increase in uncontested districts this year. In 2020, Democrats ran in 166 of the state’s 170 districts and Republicans ran in 160. This year, Republicans are once again contesting 160 districts while Democrats are running in 129.

This decrease in contested districts brings the number of uncontested Republicans—those running in districts without Democratic challengers—back to a level seen most recently in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles.

In 2018, the state saw its highest level of major party competition when Democrats and Republicans contested 168 of the 170 districts. This increased level of competition remained in the 2020 cycle before dropping this year.

Republicans currently hold majorities in both chambers: 69-51 in the House and 28-22 in the Senate. Democrats control the governorship making North Carolina one of 13 states with divided governments.

North Carolina’s state legislative primaries are May 17. A candidate winning more than 50% of the vote automatically advances to the general election. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will advance to a primary runoff on either July 5 or July 26 depending on whether any races for federal office also advance to runoffs.

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