Author

Brittony Maag

Brittony Maag is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org

Reviewing SCOTUS’ 2020-2021 term so far

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020-2021 oral argument calendar is nearing its end, with 12 hours of oral arguments remaining to be heard during its April sitting and one hour of oral argument scheduled for its May sitting. 

From October through March, the court heard a total of 45 hours of oral arguments in 56 cases. Consolidated cases were allotted one hour total for oral arguments. The court’s argument schedule through March included:

  • October sitting
    • Time period: Oct. 5 through Oct. 14
    • Oral arguments heard: 10 hours in 12 cases
  • November sitting
    • Time period: Nov. 2 through Nov. 10
    • Oral arguments heard: 8 hours in 9 cases
  • December sitting
    • Time period: Nov. 30 through Dec. 9
    • Oral arguments heard: 10 hours in 12 cases
  • January sitting:
    • Time period: Jan. 11 through Jan. 19
    • Oral arguments heard: 5 hours in 6 cases
  • February sitting:
    • Time period: Feb. 22 through March 3
    • Oral arguments heard: 6 hours in 10 cases
  • March sitting:
    • Time period: March 22 through March 31
    • Oral arguments heard: 6 hours in 7 cases

During that time, all oral arguments were made remotely via teleconference with live audio streams provided during the argument sessions. The court instituted this practice in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, and it has announced the practice will continue through its April sitting. 

As of the end of March, the court had issued opinions in 25 cases this term. Five of those cases were decided without argument. The court generally announces the majority of its decisions in mid-June.

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Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for March 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies to all United States Article III federal courts from March 1 to April 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

Vacancies: There have been five new judicial vacancies since the February 2021 report. There are 69 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, 73 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

Nominations: There were 10 new nominations since the February 2021 report.

Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the February 2021 report.

New vacancies

There were 69 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 7.9.

• The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.

• Seven (3.9%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.

• 61 (9.1%) of the 673 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.*

• One (11.1%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions is vacant.

*District court count does not include territorial courts.

Five judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

• Judge Peter Hall assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.*

• Judge Merrick Garland retired from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

• Judge Mary Briscoe assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

• Judge Darnell Jones assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

• Judge Anthony J. Battaglia assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

*Judge Hall’s service ended upon his death seven days after assuming senior status.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

File:US Court of Appeals vacancies 040121.png

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) and as of April 1.

File:UUbHy-court-of-appeals-vacancies-biden-inauguration-.png
File:T7YhD-court-of-appeals-vacancies-april-1-2021-.png

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced 10 new nominations since the February 2021 report.

New confirmations

As of April 1, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

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SCOTUS concludes March sitting

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) concluded its March sitting for its 2020-2021 term on March 31. This sitting ran from March 22 through March 31, during which time the court heard six hours of oral argument. The cases argued before SCOTUS during its March sitting included:

• March 22: Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid

• March 23: United States v. Cooley

• March 24: Caniglia v. Strom

• March 29: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System

• March 30: TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez

• March 31: National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston (consolidated with American Athletic Conference v. Alston)

The court is currently slated to hear 12 hours of oral argument during its April sitting scheduled from April 19 through April 28, and one hour of oral argument during its May sitting on May 4. SCOTUS began hearing cases for the 2020-2021 term on October 5, 2020. Its yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June.

As of March 29, 2021, the court had agreed to hear 63 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Five cases were removed from the argument calendar and one case was postponed.

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SCOTUS grants review in two cases for its 2021-2022 term

On March 22, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted two cases for review during its 2021-2022 term. With the addition of these two cases, the court had agreed to hear 10 cases during the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

United States v. Tsarnaev concerns the death penalty conviction of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of committing acts of domestic terrorism at the 2013 Boston Marathon. The questions presented to the court are: “1. Whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that respondent’s capital sentences must be vacated on the ground that the district court, during its 21-day voir dire, did not ask each prospective juror for a specific accounting of the pretrial media coverage that he or she had read, heard, or seen about respondent’s case; 2. Whether the district court committed reversible error at the penalty phase of respondent’s trial by excluding evidence that respondent’s older brother was allegedly involved in different crimes two years before the offenses for which respondent was convicted.” Tsarnaev originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC concerns whether a private commercial arbitral tribunal is a foreign or international tribunal within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. §1782(a). The question presented to the court is, “Whether the discretion granted to district courts in 28 U.S.C. §1782(a) to render assistance in gathering evidence for use in ‘a foreign or international tribunal’ encompasses private commercial arbitral tribunals, as the Fourth and Sixth Circuits have held, or excludes such tribunals without expressing an exclusionary intent, as the Second, Fifth, and, in the case below, the Seventh Circuit, have held.” Servotronics originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments as part of its 2020-2021 term. Its March sitting began on March 22 and will conclude on March 31, with the court hearing six hours of oral argument during that period. As of March 8, the court had agreed to hear 63 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also as of March 8, the court had issued opinions in 19 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

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Arizona supreme court justice schedules retirement

Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew Gould has scheduled his retirement for April 1, 2021. Gould’s replacement will be Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s (R) sixth nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under Arizona law, justices on the Arizona Supreme Court are selected through the assisted appointment method for six-year renewable terms. Following the initial appointment, judges are subject to a retention election in the next general election which occurs more than two years after the appointment.

Gould joined the Arizona Supreme Court in 2016. He was appointed by Governor Ducey.

Before serving on the state supreme court, Gould served as a judge with Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals from 2011 to 2016. He served as a judge with the Yuma County Superior Court from 2001 to 2011. Gould served as chief civil deputy for the Yuma County Attorney’s Office from 1999 to 2001. Previously, he worked as a civil litigator in private practice.

Following Gould’s retirement, the Arizona Supreme Court will include the following members:

• Robert Brutinel, appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in 2010

• Ann Timmer, appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in 2012

• Clint Bolick, appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in 2016

• John Lopez IV, appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in 2016

• James Beene, appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in 2019

• Bill Montgomery, appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) in 2019

In 2021, there have been 10 supreme court vacancies in nine of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.

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SCOTUS grants review in one case for its 2021-2022 term

On March 8, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted one case for review during its 2021-2022 term. With the addition of this case, the court has granted review in a total of eight cases for the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

Thompson v. Clark concerns the Supreme Court’s favorable termination rule for plaintiffs suing for unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and burden of proof requirements in cases of unlawful warrantless entry under the Fourth Amendment. Thompson originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

SCOTUS is currently out of session, having finished its February sitting on March 3. The court’s March sitting is scheduled to begin on March 22 and is the last sitting of its 2020-2021 term. As of March 8, 2021, the court had agreed to hear 63 cases during the 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also as of March 8, the court had issued opinions in 19 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

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SCOTUS hears three hours of oral argument during the first week of March

The first week of March closed out the U.S. Supreme Court’s February sitting with three hours of oral arguments in seven cases. The court will hear oral arguments again during its March sitting scheduled for March 22 to March 31. 

On March 1, the court heard one hour of oral argument in United States v. Arthrex Inc. (consolidated with Smith & Nephew Inc. v. Arthrex Inc. and Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew Inc.) The issues before the court were: “1. Whether, for purposes of the Appointments Clause, U.S. Const. Art. II, § 2, Cl. 2, administrative patent judges of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are principal officers who must be appointed by the President with the Senate’s advice and consent, or ‘inferior Officers’ whose appointment Congress has permissibly vested in a department head; and 2. Whether, if administrative patent judges are principal officers, the court of appeals properly cured any Appointments Clause defect in the current statutory scheme prospectively by severing the application of 5 U.S.C. 7513(a) to those judges.”

On March 2, the court heard one hour of oral argument in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (consolidated with Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee). The issues before the court were: “1. Does Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act?; and 2. Does Arizona’s ballot-collection law violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act or the Fifteenth Amendment?”

On March 3, the court heard one hour of oral argument in Carr v. Saul (consolidated with Davis v. Saul). The issue before the court was: “Whether claimants seeking disability benefits under the Social Security Act must exhaust Appointments Clause challenges before the Administrative Law Judge as a prerequisite to obtaining judicial review.”

As of February 25, 2021, the court had agreed to hear 63 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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SCOTUS grants review in two cases for its 2021-2022 term

On March 1, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted two cases for review during its 2021-2022 term. With the addition of these two cases, the court has granted review in a total of seven cases for the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

Babcock v. Saul concerns the requirements and interpretation of uniformed service under the Social Security Act’s uniformed services exception relating to civil service pension payment plans. The question presented to the court asks, “Is a civil-service pension payment based on dual-status military technician service to the National Guard a payment based wholly on service as a member of a uniformed service?” Babcock originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

United States v. Vaello-Madero concerns the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause as it applies to residents of Puerto Rico being denied benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program of the Social Security Act. The question presented to the court is, “Whether Congress violated the equal-protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by establishing Supplemental Security Income—a program that provides benefits to needy aged, blind, and disabled individuals—in the 50 States and the District of Columbia, and in the Northern Mariana Islands pursuant to a negotiated covenant, but not extending it to Puerto Rico.” Vaello-Madero originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments as part of its 2020-2021 term, with its February sitting ending on March 3 and its March sitting beginning on March 22. As of February 25, the court had agreed to hear 63 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also as of February 25, the court had issued opinions in 16 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

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U.S. Supreme Court begins February sitting for 2020-2021 term

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) continued its 2020-2021 term on February 22 with the beginning of its February sitting. The February sitting runs from February 22 through March 3, during which time SCOTUS will hear six hours of oral argument. Consistent with the court’s policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all arguments will be made via teleconference with live audio provided.

The court’s oral argument schedule for the February sitting is as follows:

  • February 22: Florida v. Georgia
  • February 23: Barr v. Dai (consolidated with Barr v. Alcaraz-Enriquez)
  • February 24: Lange v. California
  • March 1: United States v. Arthrex Inc. (consolidated with Smith & Nephew Inc. v. Arthrex Inc. and Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew Inc.)
  • March 2: Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (consolidated with Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee)
  • March 3: Carr v. Saul (consolidated with Davis v. Saul)

As with single cases, consolidated cases are allotted one hour total for oral arguments.

The court’s March sitting is scheduled to begin on March 22 and continue through March 31. The March sitting is currently the last sitting to be scheduled during the court’s 2020-2021 term.

As of Feb. 22, 2021, the court had agreed to hear 63 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The court has issued opinions in 15 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

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Ohio village council recall election to be held Feb. 23

A special recall election seeking to remove four Woodmere Village Council members from their seats is scheduled for February 23, 2021. Woodmere is a town in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, with a population of 884 people as of the 2010 census. The board members subject to recall are board president Jennifer Mitchell Earley and members Glenda Todd Miller, Lisa Brockwell, and Craig Wade.

The recall election ballot asks one question for each of the four members: “Shall [council member’s name] be allowed to continue as Member of Council?” If a majority of the votes are in the affirmative, the member will remain in office; if a majority of the votes are in the negative, the member will be recalled. The question of replacement for any recalled member is not on the ballot and will be addressed after the recall election, if necessary.

The recall effort began in October 2020. Recall petitioners, known collectively as the Woodmere Project, cited the council’s failure to install a sidewalk along the village’s main road and its inability to keep the village’s website up-to-date as grounds for the recall. Petitioners also accused the four council members of pitting residents against each other.

The recall opponents alleged that a lack of transparency about the contents of the recall petition misled the residents who signed it. Petitioners were required to obtain 45 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

The recall election was originally scheduled for January 19, 2021, but was canceled after the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections determined petitioners did not submit the required number of signatures. The effort was initially certified as having enough signatures due to confusion over whether petitioners were submitting initial or supplemental signatures. Petitioners then re-submitted signatures sufficient to get the recall on the ballot on February 23.

In 2020, Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials. Of the 49 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 29 were recalled for a rate of 59%. That was higher than the 52% rate for 2019 recalls but lower than the 63% rate for 2018 recalls.

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