Robe & Gavel: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for January 2024

Welcome to the Jan. 15 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

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SCOTUS five accepted no new cases to its merits docket since Jan. 8. To date, the court has agreed to hear 61 cases for the 2023-2024 term. SCOTUS dismissed one case after it was accepted. Twenty cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments.

  • Smith v. Spizzirri
  • City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson
  • Williams v. Washington
  • Department of State v. Muñoz
  • Starbucks Corp. v. McKinney


The Supreme Court will hear four arguments this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

Jan. 16

  • Macquarie Infrastructure Corp. v. Moab Partners, L.P. concerns Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosure liability rules.
    • The questions presented: “Whether the Second Circuit erred in holding—in conflict with the Third, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits—that a failure to make a disclosure required under Item 303 can support a private claim under Section 10(b), even in the absence of an otherwise-misleading statement.”
  • Devillier v. Texas concerns the self-executing takings clause of the Fifth Amendment.
    • The questions presented: “May a person whose property is taken without compensation seek redress under the self-executing Takings Clause even if the legislature has not affirmatively provided them with a cause of action”.

Jan. 17

“2. Whether the phrase ‘necessary and appropriate’ in the MSA augments agency power to force domestic fishing vessels to contract with and pay the salaries of federal observers they must carry.”

  • Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo challenges the D.C. Circuit’s application of Chevron deference to uphold the NMFS’ interpretation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
    • The questions presented: “Whether the Court should overrule Chevron or at least clarify that statutory silence concerning controversial powers expressly but narrowly granted elsewhere in the statute does not constitute an ambiguity requiring deference to the agency.”

In its October 2022 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 60 cases. One case was dismissed. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.


SCOTUS has not issued any opinions since our Jan. 8 edition. The court has issued rulings in one case so far this term. 

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Jan. 16: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Jan. 17: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Jan. 19: 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 Dec. 2 to J an. 1. 


  • Vacancies: There were five new judicial vacancies since the December report. There are 60 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, 61 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.  
  • Nominations: There were five new nominations since the December 2023 report. 
  • Confirmations: There were seven new confirmations since the December 2023 report.

Vacancy count for January 1, 2024

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

Five 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 January 1, 2024.

New nominations

President Biden announced five new nominations since the Dec. 11 report:

The president has announced 200 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on January 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

As of Jan. 1, the Senate has confirmed 166 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—126 district court judges, 39 appeals court judges, and one Supreme Court justice—since January 2021. 

An additional two district court judges have been confirmed since Jan. 10. As of Jan. 12, the Senate has confirmed 168 of President Biden’s judicial nominees.

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

  • Presidents have made an average of 154.3 judicial appointments through Jan. 1 of their fourth year in office.
  • President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments through Jan. 1 of his fourth year with 187. President Ronald Reagan (R) made the fewest with 122.
  • 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 through 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 Feb. 12 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.