Author

Kate Carsella

Kate Carsella is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

SCOTUS back in session, to hear arguments next week

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is scheduled to begin its April argument sitting the week of April 19. The court will hear arguments via teleconference and will provide audio live streams to the public. The court has not heard arguments in person during the 2020 term. 

SCOTUS will hear arguments in seven cases for a total of six hours of oral argument: 

Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation (consolidated with Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation) originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The consolidated cases concern Alaska Native corporations and whether they qualify for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act payments.

Sanchez v. Mayorkasconcerns grants of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to non-citizens. The case emanated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Greer v. United States concerns Title 18 of the United States Code, prohibiting a convicted felon from possessing a firearm and ammunition, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Rehaif v. United States. Greer originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

United States v. Gary concerns plain-error review of a court’s decision and the Supreme Court’s decision in Rehaif v. United States. This case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

City of San Antonio, Texas v. Hotels.com, L.P. originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and concerns Rule 39 of the Federal Rules for Appellate Procedure and a class-action lawsuit between a class of 173 Texas municipalities and several online travel companies. 

Minerva Surgical Inc. v. Hologic Inc. concerns patent infringement claims and the doctrine of assignor estoppel. The doctrine of assignor estoppel prevents a party that assigns a patent to a new party from later challenging the validity of that patent in U.S. district court. Minerva originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

SCOTUS will next hear six hours of oral argument in seven cases from April 26 through April 28. To date, the court has scheduled one case, Terry v. United States, to be argued during the May sitting on May 4. The May sitting is expected to be the final argument session of the term.

Additional Reading:



Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for April 1

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April sitting

The Supreme Court will begin its April argument session next week, hearing cases remotely and streaming live argument audio to the public. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19.

The court will hear arguments in the following cases:

April 19

April 20

April 21

Grants

SCOTUS accepted two cases since our March 29 issue for a total of two hours of oral argument. Both cases originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The 6th Circuit holds jurisdiction over Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

The cases will be scheduled for argument during the court’s 2021-2022 October term, which begins on October 4, 2021. To date, the court has accepted 10 cases for the term. 

  • Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C. concerns whether a state official may intervene in a case to defend a state law that has been invalidated and Fourteenth Amendment protections of a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. 
  • Brown v. Davenport concerns the standard necessary to grant federal habeas relief to a person held in state custody. U.S. federal courts can use writs of habeas corpus to determine if a state’s detention of a prisoner is valid. 

Opinions

SCOTUS issued five opinions since our March 29 issue. The court has issued 26 opinions so far this term. Five cases were decided without argument.

March 29

  • Mays v. Hines (Decided without argument)
    • In an 8-1 per curiam ruling, the 6th Circuit ruling was reversed.

April 1

April 5

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • April 16: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • April 19:
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in three cases.
  • April 20: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases
  • April 21: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 23: SCOTUS will conference. 

SCOTUS trivia

Supreme Court justices are known for their landmark decisions and fashion choices of robes, collars, and jabots. During which court term did the Justices first start wearing robes?

  1. 1792
  2. 1912
  3. 1801
  4. 1799

Choose an answer to find out!

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 March 1 to April 1. 

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 were vacant at the time of the report.
  • Nominations: There have been 10 new nominations announced since the February 2021 report.
  • Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the February 2021 report.

Vacancy count for April 1, 2021

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies on 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, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, the president nominates individuals to fill the vacancies. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

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.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of April 1, 2021.

New nominations

As of April 1, 2021, President Joe Biden (D) announced his intent to nominate 10 individuals to Article III judgeships. 

President Biden also announced his intent to nominate Rupa Ranga Puttagunta to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

The official nominations of these judges have not been submitted to the U.S. Senate as of this writing.

New confirmations

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

As of April 1 of the first year of President Donald Trump’s presidency, the U.S. Senate had not confirmed any Article III judicial nominees.

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 our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Welcome to the ‘80s! There’s a new Hall & Oates album playing, the Lakers and Celtics just went into overtime, and everybody’s cutting footloose. But before we head to the mall (or back to the future), let’s take a look at President Ronald Reagan’s (R) judicial nominees from 1981 to 1989.


During his two terms in office, President Reagan had 402 judges successfully nominated and confirmed to the federal bench. Of those, 382 were to Article III judgeships. Among the most notable of these are Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Antonin Scalia. Reagan also nominated William Rehnquist to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. 

When President Reagan assumed office in January 1981, he inherited 34 life-term vacancies out of 660 total Article III judgeships (5.15%). Reagan inherited the second-lowest vacancy percentage of all presidents since 1981. President George H.W. Bush had a lower vacancy percentage when he assumed office, 4.89%. 

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–President Reagan appointed 83 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 290 judges to U.S. district courts, and six judges to the U.S. Court of International Trade

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on April 19 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag, Jace Lington, and Sara Reynolds.



President Biden has announced 10 nominations for Article III judgeships

President Joe Biden (D) has announced his intent to nominate 10 individuals to Article III courts for lifetime judgeships as of April 1. As of this writing, the official nominations have not yet been submitted to the U.S. Senate. 

For comparison with the previous administration, President Donald Trump (R) made his first Article III judicial nomination by February 1, 2017, when he nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Trump’s first successful appointment–where the nominee was confirmed–occurred by May 1 of his first year, when Gorsuch was confirmed to SCOTUS.

Since 1901, the earliest successful Article III appointment, meaning the nominee was confirmed, was made by President Richard Nixon (R). Nixon appointed a federal district judge by March 1 of his first year in office. Three presidents–Theodore Roosevelt (R), Calvin Coolidge (R), and Gerald Ford (R)–made the fewest with zero judicial appointments during their first year in office.

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.

As of this writing, there were 73 current vacancies in the federal judiciary of 870 total Article III judgeships. Including non-Article III judges from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, there were 77 vacancies out of 890 active federal judicial positions.

Additional Reading:



U.S. Supreme Court issues rulings in three cases

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued opinions in three cases argued during the 2020-2021 term on April 1. 

Florida v. Georgia

The case came to the court under its original jurisdiction over disputes between states and concerned the apportionment of waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. In 2013, Florida filed a complaint against Georgia, alleging that Georgia’s water use was inequitable. Florida v. Georgia was first argued before SCOTUS on Jan. 8, 2018, during the October 2017 term. On June 27, 2018, the court sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Stephen Breyer.

The case’s second argument took place this term on Feb. 22, 2021. In a unanimous ruling, the court overruled Florida’s exceptions to the Special Master’s Report and dismissed the case. Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivered the majority opinion of the court.

FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project (consolidated with National Association of Broadcasters v. Prometheus Radio Project)

These consolidated cases originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and were argued before SCOTUS on Jan. 19, 2021. The cases involve whether the FCC adequately considered how its rule changes would affect broadcast media firms owned by women or minorities, and asked SCOTUS whether the 3rd Circuit was right to block some of the FCC’s choices on those grounds.

In a 9-0 decision, the court reversed the 3rd Circuit’s judgment, holding that the FCC’s rule changes were not arbitrary or capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion.

Facebook v. Duguid

This case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and concerned the definition of an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The case was argued before SCOTUS on Dec. 8, 2020.

Social media website Facebook allows users to receive text message alerts when their accounts are accessed from unknown devices or browsers. Noah Duguid did not have a Facebook account and never consented to receive those alerts. He sued Facebook after receiving multiple text messages and attempting to opt-out. Duguid claimed Facebook violated the TCPA’s ban on calling or sending text messages to cell phones using an ATDS. The U.S. district court dismissed the lawsuit. On appeal, the 9th Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling.

In a unanimous opinion, SCOTUS reversed the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a device must be able to store or produce a telephone number using a random or sequential number generator in order to be considered an automated telephone dialing system under the TCPA. Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion.

To date, the court has issued opinions in 25 cases this term. Five cases were decided without argument. 

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS accepts case, issues opinion

On March 29, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) released orders from its conference that was held on Friday, March 26. The court issued an opinion in one case that was not argued before the court and accepted one case to its merits docket for the 2021-2022 term.

The court accepted and issued a per curiam ruling in the case Mays v. Hines, which originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Per curiam decisions are unsigned. The court reversed the 6th Circuit’s ruling that granted a new trial to Anthony Hines, who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion.

As of March 29, the court had issued opinions in 22 cases for the 2020-2021 team. Five cases were decided without argument.

SCOTUS accepted a new case to be argued during the upcoming October Term for 2021-2022, Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C. The case originated in the 6th Circuit and concerns whether a state official may intervene in a case to defend a state law that has been invalidated by a federal circuit court and Fourteenth Amendment protections related to a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion procedure. 

As of March 29, the court had agreed to hear 11 cases during the next term.

Additional Reading:



Bold Justice: SCOTUS concludes March sitting

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Court announcements

On March 19, the court postponed hearing the case Terry v. United States, removing it from the April argument session. The Biden administration had changed the U.S. Department of Justice’s position in the case, so the court appointed a lawyer to argue in place of the U.S. government and rescheduled the oral argument.

On March 25, the court rescheduled argument in Terry for May 4, the only case to be argued during the court’s May sitting.

March sitting

The Supreme Court continues its March argument session this week, hearing cases remotely and streaming live argument audio to the public. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19. 

SCOTUS will hear arguments in four cases for a total of three hours of oral argument. Click the links below to read more about these cases:

March 29

Between 2006 and 2010, Goldman Sachs Group (“Goldman”), a multinational investment banking firm, made public statements about its business practices. A group of Goldman shareholders (“Shareholders”) alleged in U.S. district court that the statements were false because Goldman made them while knowing it had several undisclosed conflicts of interest. According to the 2nd Circuit opinion in the case, Goldman was publicly marketing risky financial products as ordinary asset-backed securities while internally, the company was allowing a hedge fund client access to create the products. Then, both Goldman and the client bet against the products, meaning that they would profit off of the transaction performing poorly or failing. Meanwhile, the shareholders experienced financial losses on the transactions. 

In 2010, Goldman disclosed its conflicts of interest. In 2011, the Shareholders filed a class action complaint against Goldman. On remand for further proceedings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, the district court certified the class, allowing the complaint to continue. Goldman requested the certification be reversed. On appeal, the 2nd Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment.

The questions presented: 

“1. Whether a defendant in a securities class action may rebut the presumption of classwide reliance recognized in Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988), by pointing to the generic nature of the alleged misstatements in showing that the statements had no impact on the price of the security, even though that evidence is also relevant to the substantive element of materiality.

“2. Whether a defendant seeking to rebut the Basic presumption has only a burden of production or also the ultimate burden of persuasion.”

March 30

Sergio Ramirez acted as a representative for a class action lawsuit against credit report agency TransUnion. Ramirez alleged that TransUnion willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act when the company indicated on his credit report that his name appeared on a government list of individuals prohibited from conducting business in the United States. 

A jury in U.S. district court awarded more than $60 million in damages to the class members. On appeal, the 9th Circuit upheld the district court’s judgment but reduced the per-member punitive damages amount. TransUnion appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The questions presented: Whether Article III of the U.S. Constitution or Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Procedure authorize a damages class action lawsuit where the majority of the class was not actually injured, even if the class representative suffered an atypical injury.

March 31

National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston (Consolidated with American Athletic Conference v. Alston) came to the court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The cases concern federal antitrust law and the NCAA’s compensation rules. 

In 2014, a class of Division 1 (“D1”) student-athletes, collectively referred to as “Alston” and as “student-athletes”, filed several antitrust complaints against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) and 11 D1 conferences with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the NCAA’s compensation rules for student-athletes. The NCAA claimed the challenge was settled in O’Bannon v. NCAA. The Northern District of California ordered the NCAA to make its compensation rules less restrictive for student-athletes and concluded the compensation rules were unlawful restraints of trade under the Sherman Act. On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion, its injunction, and its assessment of liability. The NCAA appealed to the Supreme Court. 

The questions presented: 

  • In NCAA v. Alston: Whether the 9th Circuit erred in its ruling that the NCAA eligibility rules for student-athletes’ compensation violate federal antitrust law.
  • In American Athletic Conference v. Alston: “Whether the Sherman Act authorizes a court to subject the product-defining rules of a joint venture to full Rule of Reason review, and to hold those rules unlawful if, in the court’s view, they are not the least restrictive means that could have been used to accomplish their procompetitive goal.”

Opinions

SCOTUS issued two opinion(s) since our March 22 issue. The court has issued 21 opinions so far this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

On March 25, the court issued an opinion in the consolidated cases Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and Ford Motor Company v. Bandemer, which originated from the Montana and Minnesota Supreme Courts, respectively. These cases concerned state court jurisdiction related to the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.

In both cases, plaintiffs were involved in car accidents in Ford vehicles (one in Montana and one in Minnesota) and later filed liability claims against the manufacturer. Ford filed for dismissal in the cases, arguing the state courts didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the cases. Both the Minnesota and Montana state supreme courts ruled that state courts were an appropriate forum for the cases. Ford appealed to SCOTUS for review.

In an 8-0 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state courts’ rulings, holding that the connection between the plaintiffs’ liability claims in the two cases and Ford’s activities in both states allowed the state courts to have jurisdiction. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the majority opinion, her first of the term. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch filed concurring opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas joined Gorsuch’s concurrence. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case since the case was argued prior to her joining the court. Click here to read more about the outcome of these cases.

The court also issued an opinion in Torres v. Madrid, a case originating from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that concerned a claim of excessive force against police officers and whether the use of physical force to restrain a person constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment

While attempting to arrest an individual at an Albuquerque apartment complex, New Mexico state police officers Richard Williamson and Janice Madrid approached Roxanne Torres in the parking lot to discover her identity. Thinking the police were carjackers, Torres got in her car and attempted to drive away. The officers ordered her to halt and shot her twice. Torres drove from the scene and was treated at a hospital for her injuries. Later, Torres was arrested and pleaded no contest to three crimes related to the event. Torres filed a civil lawsuit against the officers in U.S. district court claiming they had used excessive force and violated her Fourth Amendment rights. The district court ruled the officers were entitled to qualified immunity and there had been no seizure because the detention was unsuccessful–i.e., Torres left the scene. The 10th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, joining an existing circuit split on this question of law.

In a 5-3 opinion, SCOTUS vacated the 10th Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, ruling that using physical force on an individual with the intent to restrain is a seizure, even if the individual does not submit and is not subdued. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the majority opinion. Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Click here for more information about the ruling.

Grants

SCOTUS accepted two cases since our March 22 issue which will be scheduled for argument during the upcoming October 2021-2022 term. The court has granted review in 10 cases for the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

In 2013, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon. Tamerlan died days later in a confrontation with police. In 2015, Dzhokhar was indicted on and convicted of 30 criminal charges related to the bombings. He was sentenced to death for several of the offenses.

Dzhokhar appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, alleging the jury- and venue-selection processes in his case violated his constitutional rights to due process, an impartial jury, and a reliable sentencing ruling. He also claimed that the U.S. district court judge erred in applying the death penalty for some of the convictions. The 1st Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part the district court’s ruling. The court rescinded the death sentences and remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

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.”

  • Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC concerns private, commercial arbitration proceedings outside of the United States and whether such proceedings are considered a foreign or international tribunal under the law. Three federal circuit courts have ruled they are not considered an international tribunal and two have ruled that they are, creating a circuit split. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Justice Samuel Alito, who has disclosed owning Boeing stock, was recused from the case.

Rolls-Royce PLC (“Rolls-Royce”) manufactured and sold an engine to the Boeing Company (“Boeing”) that was incorporated into Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft. During testing, an engine malfunction damaged the plane. Boeing sought compensation from Rolls-Royce and the parties settled. Rolls-Royce, in turn, sought compensation from the engine valve manufacturer, Servotronics, Inc. (“Servotronics”), in an arbitration court in Birmingham, England.

Servotronics filed a subpoena–an order requiring testimony or information–with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to compel Boeing to provide documents for the arbitration proceedings. The Northern District of Illinois at first granted and then voided the subpoena, after Boeing and Rolls-Royce petitioned the court to deny the request. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld the ruling, holding that U.S. district courts are not authorized to compel discovery, i.e. grant a subpoena, in private foreign arbitrations. 

The questions presented to the court are: “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.”

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • March 29: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 30: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 31: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 2: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

SCOTUS trivia

SCOTUS has released 21 opinions so far this term. SCOTUS issued its first opinion in 1791–what was the name of that case? 

a) Best v. Warms

b) Barnes v. West

c) West v. Barnes

d) Kramer v. Kramer

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Nominations and confirmations

President Biden announced no new nominees and the U.S. Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our March 22 issue.

President Biden has not yet made any federal judicial nominations during his term. 

In comparison to previous presidential administrations, Presidents Donald Trump (R) and George H.W. Bush (R) made their first Article III judicial appointments by June 1 of the first year of their presidencies. Presidents George W. Bush (R) and Ronald Reagan (R) made their first appointments by August 1, and Presidents Barack Obama (D) and Bill Clinton (D) made their first Article III judicial appointments by October 1 of their first years in office. These figures do not include appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 72 vacancies. As of publication, there were no pending nominations.

For more information on judicial vacancies during Biden’s term, click here.

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count, published at the start of each month, monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

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 our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Put on your best grunge flannels and cue up Peter Gabriel’s classic “In Your Eyes” on the boombox, because it’s time to travel back to a bygone era known as 1989 to 1993. This edition of Bold Justice takes a look at President George H.W. Bush’s (R) judicial nominees.

During his term of office, President Bush made 197 successful judicial appointments where the nominee joined the court. Of those appointments, 188 were Article III judges. Among the most notable of these are Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and David Souter.

When President Bush assumed office in January 1989, he inherited 37 life-term vacancies out of 757 total Article III judgeships (4.89%), the lowest vacancy percentage of all presidents since the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan (R) in January 1981. 

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–Bush appointed 42 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 148 judges to U.S. district courts, and one judge to the U.S. Court of International Trade.



New York Court of Appeals justice retires, creating midterm vacancy

On March 23, 2021, State of New York Court of Appeals Justice Paul Feinman retired from the court, citing health concerns. 

Justice Feinman joined the State of New York Court of Appeals in 2017. He was appointed to the court by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Feinman was the first openly gay judge confirmed to serve on the state’s highest court.

Before serving on the state supreme court, Feinman was a judge with the New York County Supreme Court, Civil Term in the 1st Judicial District from 2008 to 2017. He was also appointed to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department in 2012. From 1996 to 1997 and again in 2001 to 2003, Feinman served as a judge with the New York City Civil Court. From 1997 to 2000, he served as a judge with the New York City Criminal Courts.

The seven justices of the New York Court of Appeals serve 14-year terms. They are appointed by the governor from a list of candidates provided by a judicial nominating commission, pending confirmation from the New York Senate.

The current chief justice of the court is Janet DiFiore, who was appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2015. 

The other five active justices of the court are:

• Jenny Rivera – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2013

• Eugene Fahey – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2015

• Michael Garcia – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2016

• Rowan Wilson – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2017

• Leslie Stein – Appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2015

Justice Leslie Stein is scheduled to retire from the court on June 4, 2021, and Justice Eugene Fahey has scheduled his retirement for December 31, 2021.

In 2021, there have been 11 supreme court vacancies in nine of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements. 

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS issues opinions in cases argued last October

The U.S. Supreme Court issued opinions on March 25 in cases argued at the start of the 2020 term. The only remaining undecided case from the October sitting is Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc.

Consolidated cases Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and Ford Motor Company v. Bandemer originated from the Montana and Minnesota Supreme Courts, respectively, and concerned state court jurisdiction related to the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.

In an 8-0 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state courts’ rulings, holding that the connection between the plaintiffs’ liability claims in the two cases and Ford’s activities in both states allowed the state courts to have jurisdiction in the cases. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the majority opinion of the court, her first of the term. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch filed concurring opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas joined in Gorsuch’s concurrence. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case since the case was argued prior to her joining the court.

Torres v. Madrid concerned a claim of excessive force against police officers and whether the use of physical force to restrain a person constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. 

In a 5-3 opinion, the court vacated the 10th Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, ruling that using physical force on an individual with the intent to restrain is a seizure, even if the individual does not submit and is not subdued. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. 

To date, the court has issued opinions in 21 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS to hold argument session in May

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 25 scheduled one case for argument on May 4, the second year in a row the court will hear arguments in May. During the 2019-2020 term, the court heard 13 cases in May.

The case, Terry v. United States, was originally scheduled for argument on April 20. The Biden administration had changed the U.S. Department of Justice’s position in the case after the case was scheduled, so the court appointed a lawyer to argue in place of the U.S. government and rescheduled the oral argument.

Terry is the only case currently scheduled for the May sitting. The court is scheduled to hear 14 cases during its April sitting, set to begin on April 19.

Additional Reading:



U.S. Supreme Court begins March argument sitting

This week, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) begins its March sitting. The court will hear cases remotely and provide audio livestreams of oral argument, continuing its safety protocols implemented at the start of the term in accordance with public health guidance related to COVID-19. 

This week, SCOTUS will hear three hours of oral argument in three cases:

• March 22: Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid came to the court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The case concerns the regulations governing labor union organizers’ access to employees at worksites.

• March 23: United States v. Cooley originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and concerns the scope of law enforcement officers’ search-and-seizure authority.

• March 24: Caniglia v. Strom concerns the scope of police officers’ authority for search and seizure and as community caretakers. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. 

Next week, SCOTUS will hear three hours of oral argument in four cases. After the March sitting, the court is scheduled to hear arguments in 15 cases before the end of the term. To date, the court has heard arguments in 50 cases. 

Additional Reading: