Welcome to the Jan. 9 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.
New year, new court business! Dear readers, we have federal judicial activity from President Joe Biden’s (D) second year in office, with some SCOTUS on the side. Let’s gavel in, shall we?
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Since our previous issue, SCOTUS has accepted five new cases to its merits docket.
- Coinbase, Inc. v. Bielski concerns a circuit split regarding district court jurisdiction in arbitration cases under the Federal Arbitration Act. The case originates from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
- United States v. Hansen concerns a First Amendment challenge to U.S. immigration law outlawing the inducement of illegal immigration for personal financial gain, and the court’s ruling in United States v. Sineneng-Smith (2019).
- Samia v. United States involves the right of a defendant to confront the witnesses against them, known as the Confrontation Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, establishing the right of a defendant to confront the witnesses against them.
- Smith v. United States asks the court to consider whether accused offenders can be tried in venues where they did not commit the charged crime.
- Slack Technologies v. Pirani is a securities lawsuit brought against the software company and communications platform Slack. The court is asked whether the plaintiff has to show they purchased shares in the company registered under a misleading statement in order to demonstrate that the statement was misleading.
To date, the court has agreed to hear 51 cases during its 2022-2023 term.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in five cases this week.
- In re Grand Jury asks the court to consider whether certain documents related to grand jury subpoenas are protected, or classified.
- The Ohio Adjutant General’s Department v. Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) concerns whether the Ohio National Guard violated federal law when it attempted to end a collective bargaining agreement with its technician employees and whether the FLRA has jurisdiction over the Guard’s labor disputes.
- Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters concerns a labor dispute and whether federal law overrides state tort claims. A tort is an act that causes injury and can become a civil lawsuit in which a court can assign liability.
- Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Inc. involves sovereign immunity and Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (“PROMESA”) claims.
The court’s January argument sitting will conclude on Jan. 18. The February argument sitting is scheduled to begin on Feb. 21.
Twelve cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments.
SCOTUS has not issued any opinions in cases argued on the merits since our previous edition.
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 Jan. 1 report covers nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from Dec. 2, 2022, through Jan. 1, 2023. The U.S. Courts data used for this report is published on the first of each month and covers the previous month.
- Vacancies: There was one new judicial vacancy. There were 83 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 85 of 890 active federal judicial positions were vacant.
- Nominations: There were six new nominations.
- Confirmations: There were 10 new confirmations.
Vacancy count for Jan. 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.
Four judges left active status, and one judicial position was established, 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.
- A new judicial position was established on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
- Judge Paul Grimm assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
- Judge Gary Feinerman retired from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
- Judge Sandra Lea Lynch assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit
- Judge Carl Barbier assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
The following chart compares the number of vacancies on the United States Courts of Appeals on the date of President Joe Biden’s (D) inauguration to vacancies on Jan. 1, 2023.
U.S. District Court vacancies
The following map shows the vacancy percentage in each of the United States District Courts as of Jan. 1, 2023.
President Joe Biden (D) announced six new nominations since our previous report.
Since taking office in January 2021, Biden has nominated 148 individuals to Article III positions. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.
- Matthew Brookman to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana
- Michael Farbiarz to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
- Marian Gaston to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California
- Wesley Hsu to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
- Robert Kirsch to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
- Mónica Ramírez Almadani to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
The U.S. Senate has confirmed 10 new nominees since our previous edition:
- Doris Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
- Frances Kay Behm to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
- Kelley Hodge to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- Jerry Blackwell to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota
- Kai Scott to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- Mia Roberts Perez to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- John Frank Murphy to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- Jeffery P. Hopkins to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
- Tamika Montgomery-Reeves to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit
- Dana Douglas to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit
As of Jan. 1, 2023, the Senate had confirmed 97 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—68 district court judges, 28 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 90 judges through Jan. 1 of their third year in office.
- President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments through Jan. 1 of his third year with 128. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 62.
- President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through one year in office with 41. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.
- President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments through two years with 128. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 62.
- 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 Jan. 17, 2023, with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out!
Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter with contributions from Myj Saintyl and Sam Post.
Dearest readers, I pause to thank you for your time and attention. It has been an honor to compile this newsletter for you. While this may be my final edition writing Robe & Gavel, I put my quill down grateful in the knowledge that it shall continue to hum along, bringing you all the latest on the federal courts. I appreciate you.
Warmest wishes to you and yours,