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Kate Carsella

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

SCOTUS accepts three new cases for 2021-2022 term

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted three cases for argument during the 2021-2022 term on Dec. 10:

  1. Golan v. Saada, originating from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, concerns international child custody.
  2. Southwest Airlines v. Saxon, on an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, concerns the scope of the Federal Arbitration Act.
  3. ZF Automotive US, Inc. v. Luxshare, Ltd. (consolidated with AlixPartners, LLC v. Fund for Protection of Investor Rights in Foreign States), originating from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, concerns international arbitration proceedings.

The court also released opinions in two cases on Friday: United States v. Texas and Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson.

As of this writing, the court has agreed to hear 53 cases during the term. Four cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Twelve cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

To date, the court has issued decisions in three cases. Two cases were decided without argument. Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS released opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year.

Additional reading:



Biden ties Clinton in second-most Article III judicial confirmations through Dec. 1 of a president’s first year since 1981

President Joe Biden (D) has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 28 Article III federal judges through Dec. 1 of his first year in office. 

Since 1901, Biden has made the third-most Article III appointments of any president by this time in office, tied with President Bill Clinton (D). President John F. Kennedy (D) had appointed the most with 56.

The following analysis compares Biden’s confirmations with his immediate predecessors since 1981: 

  1. The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through Dec. 1 of their first year in office is 21.
  2. President Ronald Reagan (R) had the most appointees confirmed with 30. 
  3. President Barack Obama (D) had the fewest confirmations in that time with 11.

The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is one. Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Obama, and Donald Trump (R) had each appointed one Supreme Court justice at this point in their first terms. Presidents George H.W. Bush (R), George W. Bush (R), and Biden had not appointed any.

The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is five. Biden and Trump appointed the most with nine, while Obama and Clinton appointed the fewest with three.

The median number of United States District Court appointees is 13. Clinton appointed the most with 24, and Trump appointed the fewest with six.

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 Jan. 2001

Through Dec. 1, 2021, there were 890 authorized federal judicial posts and 78 vacancies. Seventy-four of those vacancies were for Article III judgeships. This report is limited to Article III courts, where appointees are confirmed to lifetime judgeships.

  • In the past month, no new judges have been confirmed.
  • In the past month, 11 new judges have been nominated.

By Dec. 1, 316 days in office, President Joe Biden (D) had nominated 62 judges to Article III judgeships. For historical comparison*: 

  • President Donald Trump (R) had nominated 60 individuals, 35 of which were ultimately confirmed to their positions.
  • President Barack Obama (D) had nominated 29 individuals, 27 of which were confirmed. 
  • President George W. Bush (R) had nominated 104 individuals, 51 of which were confirmed.

*Note: These nomination 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.

Additonal reading:



SCOTUS begins second week of December argument session

From Dec. 6 to Dec. 8, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear arguments in the final week of the 2021-2022 term’s December sitting. The court is hearing arguments in person and providing audio livestreams of arguments.

This week, SCOTUS will hear arguments in five cases. Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

Dec. 6

Dec. 7

Dec. 8

SCOTUS is scheduled to begin its next argument sitting on Jan. 10.

To date, the court has agreed to hear 50 cases this term. Four cases were dismissed, and one case wasremoved from the argument calendar. Nine cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

Additional reading:



Robe & Gavel: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for December 1

Welcome to the Dec. 6 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

Happy holidays, gentle readers! Let’s gather together one last time in 2021, for Auld Lang Syne’s sake, to review the latest from SCOTUS and the federal judiciary. Let’s gavel in, shall we?

Stay up to date on the latest news by following Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Grants

SCOTUS has accepted no new cases to its merits docket since our Nov. 30 issue. 

To date, the court has agreed to hear 50 cases for the 2021-2022 term. SCOTUS dismissed four cases after they were accepted and removed one case from the argument calendar after both parties agreed to settle. Nine cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments.

Arguments

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

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

Dec. 6

Dec. 7

Dec. 8

In its October 2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 62 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Opinions

SCOTUS has not issued any rulings since our Nov. 30 edition.

To date, the court has issued decisions in three cases. Two cases were decided without argument. Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS released opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 decided cases per year.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Dec. 6: 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
    • SCOTUS will release orders.
  • Dec. 7: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • Dec. 8: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Dec. 10: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • Dec. 13: SCOTUS will release orders.

SCOTUS trivia

Welcome back to another edition of Name That Court! Read the following description of a historical Supreme Court, named after its chief justice, and select the court you think it describes.

The _____ Court was both brief and important. It helped to establish the rights of the president, states, laws, and court system. Decisions during the _____ Court created the definition of ex post facto laws and clarified rights of the president. The _____ Court ensured a stronger system of checks and balances and highlighted the importance of Congress by determining that the president did not have the power to amend the Constitution.

  1. The Marshall Court
  2. The Jay Court
  3. The Chase Court
  4. The Ellsworth Court

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. The November report includes nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from Nov. 2 through Dec. 1. 

Highlights

  • Vacancies: There have been two new judicial vacancies from Nov. 2 through Dec. 1. There are 74 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, 78 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.  
  • Nominations: There have been 11 new nominations from Nov. 2 through Dec. 1. 
  • Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations from Nov. 2 through Dec. 1.

Vacancy count for December 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 in the federal courts, click here.

*Though the U.S. territorial courts are named as district courts, they are not Article III courts. They are established by Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Click here for more information.

New vacancies

Two judges left active status since the previous vacancy count published on Nov. 1, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies. The president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial positions. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies in the United States Courts 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 December 1, 2021.

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) announced 11 new nominations since the November 2021 report.


Biden has announced 62 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

There were no new confirmations in November.

Since January 2021, the Senate has confirmed 28 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—19 district court judges and nine appeals court judges.

The first confirmations occurred on June 8, 2021, when Julien Xavier Neals and Regina Rodriguez were confirmed to their respective courts. 

Ketanji Brown Jackson was the first confirmed nominee to receive her judicial commission. The Senate confirmed Jackson on June 14, 2021, and she was commissioned on June 17.

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

  • Presidents have made an average of 21 judicial appointments through Dec. 1 of their first year in office. 
  • President Ronald Reagan has made the most appointments, 30, while President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest appointments with 11.  
  • President Reagan’s 41 appointments were the most through the first year. President Obama made the fewest with 13.
  • President Donald Trump’s (R) 234 appointments are the most appointments through four years. President Reagan 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.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Hello, gentle readers! Don your toque and pull on your frock coat as our ongoing journey through federal judicial history now crosses the threshold from the twentieth to the nineteenth century! Today, we visit the years between 1897 and 1901, highlighting President William McKinley’s (R) federal judicial nominees. 


During his time in office, the U.S. Senate confirmed 35 of President McKinley’s judicial nominees. The Senate did not vote on four nominees.

Among the most notable appointees was one Supreme Court justice:

By the end of his first year in office, five of President McKinley’s nominees had been confirmed. Four nominees were confirmed to U.S. District Courts, one was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back next year on Jan. 10, 2022, with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

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



SCOTUS begins December argument session

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) began its December sitting of the 2021-2022 term on Nov. 29. The court is hearing arguments in person and providing audio livestreams of arguments.

This week, SCOTUS will hear arguments in four cases. Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

Nov. 29

Nov. 30

Dec. 1

Next week, SCOTUS will hear arguments in five cases.

To date, the court has agreed to hear 50 cases this term. Four cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Nine cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

Additional reading:



SCOTUS issues first opinion in argued case of 2021 term

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Nov. 22 issued its ruling in the case Mississippi v. Tennessee, argued during the October sitting of the 2021 term. This marks the first opinion issued for an argued case this term. The court previously decided two non-argued cases, Rivas-Villegas v. Cortesluna and City of Tahlequah, Oklahoma v. Bond, on Oct. 18. 

In a unanimous ruling, the court dismissed the state of Mississippi’s complaint without permission to amend it, holding that the groundwater aquifer at issue was subject to the judicial remedy of equitable apportionment. 

In its complaint, Mississippi had asked the court to consider the following questions:

  • “Whether the Court will grant Mississippi leave to file an original action to seek relief from respondents’ use of a pumping operation to take approximately 252 billion gallons of high-quality groundwater;
  • “Whether Mississippi has sole sovereign authority over and control of groundwater naturally stored within its borders, including in sandstone within Mississippi’s borders; and
  • “Whether Mississippi is entitled to damages, injunctive, and other equitable relief for the Mississippi intrastate groundwater intentionally and forcibly taken by respondents.”

Chief Justice John Roberts penned the majority opinion, writing, “Mississippi has failed to show that it is entitled to relief. We therefore overrule Mississippi’s exceptions to the Special Master’s report, sustain Tennessee’s, and dismiss the case.”

The case came to the court under its original jurisdiction as it was a dispute among states. In such cases, SCOTUS has the right to consider the facts and the law of a case without it having first been passed on by a lower court.

To date, the court has accepted 49 cases to be argued during its 2021-2022 term. Four cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Eight cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

The court has issued decisions in three cases. Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS released opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year.

Additional reading:



SCOTUS grants review in arbitration case

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted on Nov. 15 one case to its merits docket, Morgan v. Sundance, Inc. The case concerns arbitration clauses and the court’s ruling in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (2011). Morgan originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

In AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (2011), SCOTUS held that lower courts must consider and treat arbitration agreements equally with other types of contracts and enforce them according to their terms under the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 (FAA).

The following timeline details key events in Morgan v. Sundance, Inc.:

  • Nov. 15, 2021: The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
  • Aug. 27, 2021: Robyn Morgan appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to consider
    • “Does the arbitration-specific requirement that the proponent of a contractual waiver defense prove prejudice violate this Court’s instruction that lower courts must ‘place arbitration agreements on an equal footing with other contracts?’ AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333, 339 (2011)”
  • March 30, 2021: The 8th Circuit reversed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa’s order denying Sundance, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration for Robyn Morgan’s claims.

The case has not yet been scheduled for argument. 

To date, the court has agreed to hear 49 cases during its 2021-2022 term. Three cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Sixteen cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

Additional reading:



SCOTUS hears arguments in second week of November argument sitting

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Nov. 8 continued its November argument sitting of the the 2021-2022 term. The court is hearing arguments in person and providing audio livestreams of arguments.

This week, SCOTUS will hear arguments in five cases. Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

Nov. 8

Nov. 9

Nov. 10

To date, the court has agreed to hear 48 cases this term. Three cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Fifteen cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

Additional reading:



President Biden announces new federal judicial nominees

President Joe Biden (D) announced a new slate of nominees to lifetime Article III judgeships on U.S. circuit and district courts on Nov. 3.

Biden also nominated Kendra Briggs to a non-Article III court, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The Superior Court of D.C. is a trial court of general jurisdiction where judges are appointed to 15-year terms by the president.

Since taking office, Biden has nominated 60 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts. To date, 28 of the nominees have been confirmed.

Additional reading: