Welcome to the July 11 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.
We are now in the dog days, fair readers, and though SCOTUS has transitioned into its summer recess, we have plenty to cover. Let’s grab an iced tea and gavel in, shall we?
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Noteworthy court announcements
Here’s a quick roundup of the court’s noteworthy announcements since the June 14 edition of Robe & Gavel:
Court membership change
June 30, 2022: Associate Justice Stephen Breyer officially retired from the court as an active justice and assumed senior status. His successor, Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, was commissioned to the court on April 8, 2022, and was sworn in on June 30. Justice Jackson was elevated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Court reinstates Louisiana voting map
June 28, 2022: In the case Ardoin v. Robinson, concerning whether the Louisiana State Legislature must draw a new congressional voting map to create two majority-minority districts based on race as the sole non-negotiable variable, the court blocked a U.S. district court’s preliminary injunctions that required the new maps. The district court ruled the existing maps violated the Voting Rights Act. Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.
Since our previous issue, SCOTUS has accepted six new cases to its merits docket. To date, the court has agreed to hear 23 cases during its 2022-2023 term. The court has not yet scheduled any of the cases for argument.
Click the links below to learn more about these cases:
- United States, ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resources, Inc. concerns the legal authority and standards required for dismissing claims under the False Claims Act.
- Bittner v. United States concerns the Bank Secrecy Act.
- MOAC Mall Holdings LLC v. Transform Holdco LLC involves Section 363(m) of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and how it limits appellate courts’ jurisdiction.
- Percoco v. United States asks whether a private citizen who can influence governmental decision-making could be convicted of bribery.
- Ciminelli v. United States involves the right to control theory of fraud under the federal wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1343.
- Moore v. Harper involves the independent state legislature doctrine, which theorizes that the U.S. Constitution allows state legislatures alone to regulate federal elections without oversight from state courts.
The Supreme Court has finished hearing arguments for its 2021-2022 term. During the term, the court accepted 68 cases for oral argument. It heard 63 cases after four cases were dismissed and one case was removed from the argument calendar. The court’s 2022-2023 term is scheduled to begin on Oct. 3, 2022.
SCOTUS ruled on 24 cases since our June 14 edition. Click the links below to read more about the specific cases:
- Arizona v. City and County of San Francisco, California
- George v. McDonough
- American Hospital Association v. Becerra
- Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas
- Golan v. Saada
- Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana
- Marietta Memorial Hospital Employee Health Benefit Plan v. DaVita, Inc.
- United States v. Taylor
- United States v. Washington
- Shoop v. Twyford
- Carson v. Makin
- Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP
- Nance v. Ward
- Vega v. Tekoh
- New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen
- 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)
- Biden v. Texas
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.
The June report covers nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from June 2 through July 1.
- Vacancies: There were three new judicial vacancies in June. There were 75 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 77 of 890 active federal judicial positions were vacant.
- Nominations: There were nine new nominations.
- Confirmations: There were three new confirmations.
Vacancy count for July 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 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.
Three judges left active status in June, 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.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Judge Michael Kanne died on June 16, 2022.
- Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson left the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upon her elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Judge Timothy Hillman assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Massachusetts.
The following chart tracks the number of vacancies in the United States Courts of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) 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 July 1, 2022.
President Biden announced nine new nominations in June.
- Roopali Desai to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
- Dana Douglas to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit
- Bradley Garcia to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
- Tamika Montgomery-Reeves to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit
- María Antongiorgi-Jordán to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
- Gina Méndez-Miró to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
- Frances Kay Behm to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
- Jerry Blackwell to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota
- Camille Vélez-Rivé to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
The president has announced 105 Article III judicial nominations since taking office Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.
The U.S. Senate confirmed three nominees in June.
- Ana de Alba to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
- Robert Huie to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California
- Nina Morrison to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
As of July 1, 2022, the Senate had confirmed 69 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—49 district court judges, 16 appeals court judges, and one Supreme Court justice.
Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)
- Presidents have appointed an average of 56 judges through July 1 of their second year in office.
- President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments through July 1 of his second year with 72, followed by President Biden with 69. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 36.
- 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 Aug. 8 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out!
Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag, Caitlin Styrsky, and Sara Reynolds.