Robe & Gavel: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for May 1, 2023

Welcome to the May 8 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

Now that SCOTUS has heard all of its arguments for this term, we await with bated breath as more opinions will start coming in. The suspense! In the meantime, dear reader, we’ve got some federal vacancy updates coming your way. Let’s gavel on in. 

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SCOTUS has accepted four new cases to its merits docket since our April 24 issue. To date, the court has agreed to hear nine cases for the 2023-2024 term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:


The Supreme Court will not hear any arguments this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.


SCOTUS has not issued any opinions in cases argued on the merits since our previous edition. 

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • May 11, 2023: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

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. This month’s edition includes nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from April 2 to May 1. 


  • Vacancies: There have been four new judicial vacancies since the April 1 report. There are 78 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions in courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 80 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.  
  • Nominations: There were two new nominations since the April 2023 report. 
  • Confirmations: There was one new confirmation since the April 2023 report.

Vacancy count for May 1, 2023

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 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.

New vacancies

Four judges left active status since the previous vacancy count, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies. The president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial position vacancies. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies in the United States Courts of Appeals from President Joe Biden’s (D) inauguration 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 March 1, 2023.

New nominations

President Biden announced two new nominations since the April 1 report:

The president has announced 160 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

As of May 1, 2023, the Senate had confirmed 120 of President Biden’s Article III judicial nominees—87 district court judges, 32 appeals court judges, and one Supreme Court justice—since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. 

Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)

  • Presidents have made an average of 103.1 judicial appointments through May 1 of their third year in office.
  • President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments through May 1 of his third year with 137. President George H.W. Bush (R) made the fewest with 74.
  • 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 Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments in four years with 234. President Ronald Reagan (R) 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.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on June 12 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 


Myj Saintyl compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Sam Post.