Robe & Gavel: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for December 2023

Welcome to the Dec. 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.

Dear reader, this is our final edition of Robe & Gavel for the year. And what better way to close the year than with SCOTUS’s first opinion for the 2023-2024 term? As usual, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s gavel on in!

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SCOTUS has accepted no new cases to its merits docket since our Dec. 4 issue. To date, the court has agreed to hear 46 cases for the 2023-2024 term. SCOTUS dismissed one case after it was accepted.


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


SCOTUS has ruled on its first case for the 2023-2024 term. Forty-four cases are still under deliberation.

Click the links below to read more about the case :

Dec. 5

Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer was argued before the court on Oct. 4.

The case: Concerns the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The questions presented: “Does a self-appointed Americans with Disabilities Act ‘tester’ have Article III standing to challenge a place of public accommodation’s failure to provide disability accessibility information on its website, even if she lacks any intention of visiting that place of public accommodation?”

The outcome: In a 9-0 opinion, the court vacated the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, holding that the case is moot. Justice Barrett delivered the opinion of the court.

  • To vacate a case is to void, cancel, nullify, or invalidate a verdict or judgment of a court.
  • A moot case concerns an issue having no practical significance, but which is academic or hypothetical.

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 Nov. 2 to Dec. 1. 


  • Vacancies: There have been three new judicial vacancies since the November 2023 report. There are 63 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 64 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.  
  • Nominations: There were five new nominations since the November 2023 report. 
  • Confirmations: There were 11 new confirmations since the November 2023 report.

Vacancy count for December 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 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.

New vacancies

Three 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 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 Dec 1.

New nominations

President Biden announced five new nominations since the November 2023 report:

The president has announced 195 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 Dec. 1, 2023, the Senate had confirmed 159 of President Biden’s Article III judicial nominees—121 district court judges, 37 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 146.7 judicial appointments through Dec. 1 of their third year in office.
  • President George W. Bush (R) made the most appointments through Dec. 1 of his third year with 168. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 119.
  • 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.
  • President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through one year in office with 41. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.

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 Jan. 8 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 


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