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Brittony Maag

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

Biden nominates five to Article III courts

President Joe Biden (D) announced his intent to nominate five individuals to Article III judgeships with lifetime terms on April 13:

To date, Biden has nominated 88 individuals to federal judgeships. The U.S. Senate has confirmed 59 of the nominees.

As of his inauguration in January 2021, Biden inherited 46 Article III vacancies: two vacancies in the U.S. courts of appeal, 43 vacancies in the U.S. district courts, and one vacancy on the U.S. Court of International Trade. Biden announced his first federal judicial nominees on March 30.

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Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for March 2022

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies in Article III courts during the month of March through April 1, 2022. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

Four 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.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

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

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at Biden’s inauguration and as of April 1, 2022.

New nominations

Biden has announced no new nominations since the February 2022 report. Since taking office in January 2021, Biden has nominated 83 individuals to Article III positions.

New confirmations

The U.S. Senate confirmed 12 nominees since the previous report.

As of April 1, 2022, the Senate had confirmed 58 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—43 district court judges and 15 appeals court judges. To review a complete list of Biden’s confirmed nominees, click here.

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Biden has appointed most federal judges through April 1 of a president’s second year

President Joe Biden (D) has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 58 Article III federal judges through April 1 of his second year in office. This is the most Article III judicial appointments through this point in all presidencies since 1981. The Senate had confirmed 29 of President Donald Trump’s (R) appointees at this point in his term.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through April 1 of their second year in office is 39.

  • The median number of Supreme Court appointees is one. Four presidents (Reagan, Clinton, Obama, and Trump) had made one appointment. Three presidents (H.W. Bush, W. Bush, and Biden) had not appointed any.
  • The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is eight. Biden had made the most appointees with 15, followed by Trump with 14. Clinton had appointed the fewest with four.
  • The median number of United States District Court appointees is 35. Biden had made the most appointees with 43, followed by Reagan with 40. Obama had appointed the fewest with 11.

Article III federal judges are appointed for life terms by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate per Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III judges include judges on the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. courts of appeal, U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade.

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Monthly tracker: Article III federal judicial nominations by president by days in office since 2001

Through April 1, 2022, there were 890 authorized federal judicial posts and 74 vacancies. Seventy-two of those were for Article III judgeships. This report is limited to Article III courts, where appointees are confirmed to lifetime judgeships.

  • In the past month, 12 judges have been confirmed
  • In the past month, no judges have been nominated*

*Note: This figure includes nomination announcements in addition to nominations officially received in the Senate.

By April 1, 437 days in office, President Joe Biden (D) had nominated 83 judges to Article III judgeships. For historical comparison:** 

  • President Donald Trump (R) had nominated 104 individuals, 76 of which were ultimately confirmed to their positions.
  • President Barack Obama (D) had nominated 59 individuals, 54 of which were confirmed.
  • President George W. Bush (R) had nominated 138 individuals, 83 of which were confirmed.

**Note: These figures include unsuccessful nominations.

The following data visualizations track the number of Article III judicial nominations by president by days in office during the Biden, Trump, Obama, and W. Bush administrations (2001-present). 

The first tracker is limited to successful nominations, where the nominee was ultimately confirmed to their respective court:

The second tracker counts all Article III nominations, including unsuccessful nominations (for example, the nomination was withdrawn or the U.S. Senate did not vote on the nomination), renominations of individuals to the same court, and recess appointments. A recess appointment is when the president appoints a federal official while the Senate is in recess.

The data contained in these charts is compiled by Ballotpedia staff from publicly available information provided by the Federal Judicial Center. The comparison by days shown between the presidents is not reflective of the overall status of the federal judiciary during their respective administrations and is intended solely to track nominations by president by day.

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Upcoming Article III Judicial Vacancies

According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 34 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships. Article III judgeships refer to federal judges who serve on one of the 13 U.S. courts of appeal, 94 U.S. district courts, and on the Court of International Trade. These are lifetime appointments made by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

These positions are not yet vacant but will be at some point in the future with every judge having announced his or her intent to either leave the bench or assume senior status. In the meantime, these judges will continue to serve in their current positions.

The president and Senate do not need to wait for a position to become vacant before they can start the confirmation process for a successor. For example, the process has already begun for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was nominated to replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer when he vacates the seat at the beginning of the court’s summer recess. There are six nominees pending for upcoming vacancies.

Twenty-two vacancy effective dates have not been determined because the judge has not announced the date he or she will leave the bench. The next upcoming scheduled vacancy will take place on April 17, 2022, when U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California Judge John Mendez assumes senior status.

In addition to these 34 upcoming vacancies, there are 73 current Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary out of the 870 total Article III judgeships. 

President Biden has nominated 83 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts. Fifty-eight of those nominees have been confirmed. Of the 25 nominees going through the confirmation process, 11 are awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate, six are awaiting a committee vote, and eight are awaiting a committee hearing.



SCOTUS accepts three new cases for its 2022-2023 term

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted three cases on March 28 for argument during its October 2022-2023 term. To date, the court has agreed to hear arguments in nine cases next term.

National Pork Producers Council v. Ross concerns the constitutionality of the conditions California’s Proposition 12 imposes on pork producers nationwide in order to sell pork in the state. The questions presented to the court are: “1. Whether allegations that a state law has dramatic economic effects largely outside of the state and requires pervasive changes to an integrated nationwide industry state a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause, or whether the extraterritoriality principle described in this Court’s decisions is now a dead letter. 2. Whether such allegations, concerning a law that is based solely on preferences regarding out-of-state housing of farm animals, state a Pike claim.” The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Cruz v. Arizona concerns the proper application of U.S. Supreme Court precedent during state capital cases’ sentencing and appellate review. The court was asked to consider the following question: “Whether the Arizona Supreme Court’s holding that Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(g) precluded post-conviction relief is an adequate and independent state-law ground for the judgment.” The case came to the court from the Arizona Supreme Court.

Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith concerns the definition of a transformative work for purposes of the fair use defense under federal copyright law. The question presented in the case asks: “What does it mean for a work of art to be “transformative” as a matter of law under the Copyright Act?” The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The court will begin hearing cases for its 2022-2023 term on Oct. 3, 2022.

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SCOTUS releases April argument calendar

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on March 15 released its April argument calendar for the 2021-2022 term, scheduling 10 cases for argument. In total, the court will hear 10 hours of arguments between April 18 and April 27. 

Click the links below to learn more about the cases:

April 18

  • United States v. Washington concerns state workers’ compensation laws and intergovernmental immunity.
  • Siegel v. Fitzgerald concerns the constitutionality of a law imposing different fees on Chapter 11 debtors based on the district in which the bankruptcy is filed.

April 19

  • George v. McDonough concerns whether veterans may challenge decisions from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs based on regulations that are found to be in violation of the plain text of governing statutes.
  • Kemp v. United States concerns the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing court procedure in civil cases and Supreme Court Rule 13.3.

April 20

  • Vega v. Tekoh concerns Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination, specifically related to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Miranda v. Arizona (1966).

April 25

  • Kennedy v. Bremerton School District concerns religious expression at a public school and the Constitution’s establishment clause.
  • Nance v. Ward concerns the procedure under federal law for a convicted inmate to challenge a state’s method of execution.

April 26

  • Biden v. Texas concerns whether federal immigration law requires the Biden administration to keep a program in place that returns certain noncitizens to Mexico during their immigration proceedings because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security lacks the capacity to detain all the inadmissible noncitizens it encounters. The case also concerns what procedures administrative agencies must follow under the Administrative Procedure Act to change federal policies.
  • Shoop v. Twyford concerns the authority of a federal district court to issue a transport order to the warden of a state-run prison for transportation of a state prisoner involved in a federal habeas corpus proceeding.

April 27

  • Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta concerns state authority in Indian country and the scope of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case McGirt v. Oklahoma (2020).

To date, the court has agreed to hear 66 cases during its 2021-2022 term. Four cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Unless the court accepts additional cases for argument before its summer recess, the April sitting is the last scheduled sitting of the term.

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Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for February 2022

In February’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies in Article III courts during the month of February through March 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

Two 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.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

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

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at Biden’s inauguration and as of March 1, 2022.

New nominations

Biden has announced two new nominations since the January 2022 report.

Since taking office in January 2021, Biden has nominated 83 individuals to Article III positions.

New confirmations

The U.S. Senate confirmed one nominee since the previous report.

As of March 1, the Senate had confirmed 46 of Biden’s judicial nominees—32 district court judges and 14 appeals court judges. To review a complete list of Biden’s confirmed nominees, click here.

Additional reading:



Biden has appointed most federal judges through March 1 of a president’s second year

President Joe Biden (D) has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 46 Article III federal judges through March 1 of his second year in office. This is the most Article III judicial appointments through this point in all presidencies since 1981. The Senate had confirmed 26 of President Donald Trump’s (R) appointees at this point in his term.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through March 1 of their second year in office is 32.

  • The median number of Supreme Court appointees is one. Four presidents (Reagan, Clinton, Obama, and Trump) made one appointment. Three presidents (H.W. Bush, W. Bush, and Biden) had not appointed any.
  • The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is seven. Biden and Trump tied for the most appointees with 14 each, followed by Reagan with nine. Clinton appointed the fewest with three.
  • The median number of United States District Court appointees is 30. Reagan had the most appointees with 34. Obama appointed the fewest with 10.

Article III federal judges are appointed for life terms by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate per Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III judges include judges on the: Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. courts of appeal, U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade.

Additional reading:



Monthly tracker: Article III federal judicial nominations by president by days in office since 2001

As of Feb. 1, 2022, there were 890 authorized federal judicial posts and 81 vacancies. Seventy-nine of those were for Article III judgeships. This report is limited to Article III courts, where appointees are confirmed to lifetime judgeships.

  • In the past month, five judges have been confirmed
  • In the past month, eight judges have been nominated*.

*Note: This figure includes nomination announcements in addition to nominations officially received in the Senate.

By Feb. 1, 378 days in office, President Joe Biden (D) had nominated 81 judges to Article III judgeships. For historical comparison**: 

  • President Donald Trump (R) had nominated 95 individuals, 67 of whom were ultimately confirmed to their positions.
  • President Barack Obama (D) had nominated 43 individuals, 39 of whom were confirmed.
  • President George W. Bush (R) had nominated 130 individuals, 75 of whom were confirmed.

**Note: These figures include unsuccessful nominations.

The following data visualizations track the number of Article III judicial nominations by president by days in office during the Biden, Trump, Obama, and W. Bush administrations (2001-present). 

The first tracker is limited to successful nominations, where the nominee was ultimately confirmed to their respective court:

The second tracker counts all Article III nominations, including unsuccessful nominations (for example, the nomination was withdrawn or the U.S. Senate did not vote on the nomination), renominations of individuals to the same court, and recess appointments. A recess appointment is when the president appoints a federal official while the Senate is in recess.

The data contained in these charts is compiled by Ballotpedia staff from publicly available information provided by the Federal Judicial Center. The comparison by days shown between the presidents is not reflective of the larger states of the federal judiciary during their respective administrations and is intended solely to track nominations by president by day.

Additional reading: