An update on Article III judgeship nominations

Welcome to the Friday, April 21, Brew. 

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

  1. Stay up to date on federal judicial happenings with Robe & Gavel 
  2. North Dakota Legislative Assembly fails to override Gov. Burgum’s (R) veto of bill banning approval and ranked-choice voting 
  3. #FridayTrivia: Since 2000, how many state lawmakers have we tracked who were expelled from a legislative chamber?

Stay up to date on federal judicial happenings with Robe & Gavel 

On April 20, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance seven of President Joe Biden’s (D) judicial nominees—the committee’s first such actions since California Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) was hospitalized with shingles in February. Feinstein requested to temporarily step down from the Judiciary Committee on April 12, saying, “I understand that my absence could delay the important work of the Judiciary Committee, so I’ve asked Leader Schumer to ask the Senate to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily serve until I’m able to resume my committee work.” She remains away from the Senate.

On April 17, Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he would replace Feinstein while she was absent, a move Republicans blocked the following day.  

The Judiciary Committee is composed of 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans and considers whether to advance presidential judicial nominees to a full U.S. Senate vote. A nominee who receives a deadlocked vote does not advance. Relevant to Feinstein’s absence, committee rules allow an absent member to vote by proxy so long as the vote cast is not the deciding one. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recorded Feinstein’s proxy vote.

The seven nominees that the Committee advanced on April 20 will move to a full U.S. Senate vote. All received varying levels of support from Republican members. Notably, the committee declined to vote on three nominees who were listed on its agenda.  

Feinstein’s absence and these recent Committee votes prompted us to look at the recent pace of federal judicial nominations in the U.S. Senate, and compare that to the same point in Donald Trump’s (R) presidency.

Since taking office, Biden has nominated 158 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts and 119 of those nominees have been confirmed. Since January, the U.S. Senate has confirmed 22 of Biden’s judicial nominees. Last year, between January and April, the U.S. Senate confirmed 20 judges. 

At this point in his presidency, Trump had nominated 180 individuals to federal judgements on Article III courts and 92 of those nominees had been confirmed. And in the first three months of 2019—equivalent to the first three months of 2023 in Biden’s presidency—the Senate confirmed seven of Trump’s nominees. Overall, the U.S. Senate confirmed 234 Article III judges during Trump’s presidency.

There are 77 total Article III vacancies and 36 total nominees pending as of April 20. On average since January 2021, there have been 79 Article III vacancies each month. 

With nearly 1,770 judgeships across 209 courts, it can feel daunting to keep up with all the news coming out of the federal judiciary. That’s why we write Robe & Gavel, a newsletter that provides you with the latest on judicial vacancies, nominations, and confirmations, summaries of U.S. Supreme Court cases and arguments, and information on important rulings out of other federal courts.

In the next edition Robe & Gavel, which comes out Monday, we’ll be looking at four recent SCOTUS opinions and the following cases being heard next week:

Subscribe today to read the issue as soon as it drops! 

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North Dakota Legislative Assembly fails to override Gov. Burgum’s (R) veto of bill banning approval and ranked-choice voting methods

Over the last year, four states—Florida, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Idaho—have passed laws banning approval and ranked-choice voting methods. For the time being, North Dakota will not be among them. 

On April 19, the North Dakota Senate fell four votes shy in overriding Gov. Doug Burgum’s (R) veto of House Bill 1273, failing to meet the two-thirds threshold—32—following a 28-19 vote. 

The legislation would have prohibited the use of approval and ranked-choice voting in state and local elections.

The House originally voted 74-19 to pass HB 1273, while the Senate did so 33-13. Burgum vetoed the bill on April 6, calling it an example of state overreach. On April 10, the House voted 71-17 to override Burgum’s veto. 

State Rep. LaurieBeth Hager (D) said, “I don’t think that any one of us in the room has a right to take away the Home Rule charter and how Fargo wants to elect their local representatives.” House Majority Leader Mike Lefor (R) said, “By introducing and passing House Bill 1273 the legislature properly exercised its authority to regulate the way elections are conducted, and such a broad departure from how the majority of the state conducts its elections is a matter of statewide concern.”

Approval voting allows voters to select any number of candidates they choose. The candidates receiving the most votes are elected until all the offices up for election are filled. Ranked-choice voting is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots.

North Dakota is one of 29 states where one party holds a veto-proof majority in both legislative chambers. Of those 29 states, Republicans control 20 while Democrats control nine. In North Dakota, Republicans have a 43-4 majority in the Senate and an 82-12 majority in the House. 

Several states are considering similar legislation banning voting methods like ranked-choice voting in the 2023 legislative sessions. Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) vetoed House Bill 2552, which would have banned ranked-choice voting, on April 13. Other states considering similar legislation include Texas and Montana.

Click below to use our Legislation Tracker to follow and learn about election-related legislation in your state. 

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#FridayTrivia: Since 2000, how many state lawmakers have we tracked who were expelled from a legislative chamber? 

In the Wednesday Brew, we wrote about our recent research into expelled state legislators throughout American history. The expulsion of state legislators has been in the news lately, as three were removed from office in Arizona and Tennessee in the last month. 

Our dataset includes 61 expulsions going all the way back to 1837.

How many lawmakers have we tracked since 2000 who were expelled from state legislatures? 

  1. 12
  2. 46
  3. 11
  4. 27