Author

Sara Reynolds

Sara Reynolds is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

U.S. Supreme Court announces circuit assignments

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) announced circuit assignments for the chief justice and the associate justices on November 20. Under Title 28, United States Code, Section 42, each SCOTUS justice is assigned to one of the 13 U.S. courts of appeal. The U.S. courts of appeal are the intermediate appellate courts of the U.S. federal courts.

The circuit justice is responsible for ruling on motions arising from his or her assigned circuit and traditionally refers motions from that circuit to the court as a whole.

The circuit assignments for the 2020-2021 term are:

  • Chief Justice John G. Roberts – Assigned to the 4th Circuit, the Federal Circuit, and the District of Columbia Circuit.
  • Justice Clarence Thomas – Assigned to the 11th Circuit
  • Justice Stephen Breyer – Assigned to the 1st Circuit
  • Justice Samuel Alito – Assigned to the 3rd and 5th Circuits
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor – Assigned to the 2nd Circuit
  • Justice Elena Kagan – Assigned to the 9th Circuit
  • Justice Neil Gorsuch – Assigned to the 10th Circuit
  • Justice Brett Kavanaugh – Assigned to the 6th and 8th Circuits
  • Justice Amy Coney Barrett – Assigned to the 7th Circuit

Additional reading:



U.S. Senate confirms five nominees to federal judgeships

The U.S. Senate confirmed five nominees to federal judgeships—four to federal district court seats and one to the U.S. Court of International Trade. The 94 U.S. District Courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts. The U.S. Court of International Trade is an Article III federal court that only hears cases involving particular international trade and customs law questions.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed 227 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—three Supreme Court justices, 53 appellate court judges, 168 district court judges, and three U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017.

The nominees are:

• Benjamin Beaton, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky by a 52-44 vote. After he receives his federal judicial commission and takes his judicial oath, the five-member court will have two Democrat-appointed judges, three Republican-appointed judges, and no vacancies. Beaton will join two other judges appointed by President Trump.

• Toby Crouse, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas by a 50-43 vote. After he receives his federal judicial commission and takes his judicial oath, the six-member court will have one Democrat-appointed judge, five Republican-appointed judges, and no vacancies. Crouse will join two other judges appointed by President Trump.

• Kristi Haskins Johnson, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi by a 53-43 vote. After she receives her federal judicial commission and takes her judicial oath, the six-member court will have one Democrat-appointed judge, four Republican-appointed judges, and one vacancy. Johnson will be the first judge appointed by President Trump to join the court.

• Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida by a 49-41 vote. After she receives her federal judicial commission and takes her judicial oath, the 15-member court will have six Democrat-appointed judges, nine Republican-appointed judges, and no vacancies. Mizelle will join four other judges appointed by President Trump.

• Stephen Vaden, confirmed to the U.S. Court of International Trade by a 49-43 vote. After he receives his federal judicial commission and takes his judicial oath, the nine-member court will have four Democrat-appointed judges, four Republican-appointed judges, and one vacancy. Vaden will join two other judges appointed by President Trump.

Additional reading:



Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for October

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from October 2, 2020, to November 1, 2020. Ballotpedia publishes a federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

Vacancies: There have been two new judicial vacancies since the previous report. There are 59 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, 66 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

Nominations: There have been two new nominations since the previous report.

Confirmations: There have been two new confirmations since the previous report.

New vacancies

There were 59 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 6.8, the same as the previous report.

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

• Two (1.1%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.

• 55 (8.1%) of the 677 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.

• Two (22.2%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions are vacant.

A vacancy occurs when a judge resigns, retires, takes senior status, or passes away. Article III judges, who serve on courts authorized by Article III of the Constitution, are appointed for life terms.

Two judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies. A presidential nomination is required to fill an Article III vacancy. Article III nominations by the president are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

1. Judge Amy Coney Barrett left the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit after she was elevated to the Supreme Court of the United States.

2. Judge Juan Torruella died on October 26, 2020, leaving an open seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

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 Donald Trump (R) to the date indicated on the chart.

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R), as of November 2, 2020.

New nominations

President Trump has announced two new nominations since the previous report:

1. Thomas Kirsch, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

2. Joseph Barloon, to the U.S. Court of International Trade.

Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has nominated 273 individuals to Article III positions.

New confirmations

Since October 2, 2020, the U.S. Senate has confirmed two of President Trump’s nominees to Article III seats:

• Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

• Michael Newman, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

As of November 1, 2020, the Senate has confirmed 220 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—162 district court judges, 53 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and three Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.

Additional reading:



U.S. Supreme Court considers ACA’s individual mandate

On November 10, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear California v. Texas via teleconference with live audio. California v. Texas concerns the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

President Barack Obama (D) signed the ACA into law in 2010. Section 5000A of the ACA, known as the individual mandate, established requirements for individuals to have health coverage and instituted fines for those without coverage. In National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012), SCOTUS upheld Section 5000A as “an exercise of Congress’s taxing power.” In 2017, Congress set the amount of the shared responsibility payment at zero, effective January 1, 2019.

In 2018, 20 states filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas challenging the individual mandate and claiming the ACA was unconstitutional. The lawsuit stated, “Once the heart of the ACA—the individual mandate—is declared unconstitutional, the remainder of the ACA must also fall.” Judge Reed O’Connor ruled the ACA was invalid. On appeal, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled the individual mandate was unconstitutional. The 5th Circuit sent the case back to the Northern District of Texas, asking the district court to consider how much of the ACA could remain with the individual mandate considered unconstitutional.

A group of states petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review, arguing (1) the respondents do not have the legal right to challenge the ACA and (2) the ACA is constitutional.

The issues:

(1) Whether plaintiffs have the legal right to challenge the individual mandate. 

(2) Whether reducing the amount specified for fines in Section 5000A(c) to zero made the individual mandate provision unconstitutional.

(3) If so, whether the individual mandate provision is severable from the rest of the ACA, i.e., whether the remainder of the ACA can remain in place if the individual mandate provision is unconstitutional.

Additional reading:



Bold Justice: Court considers ACA’s individual mandate



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Ballotpedia's Bold Justice

Welcome to the November 9 edition of Bold Justice, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

Election Day was almost one week ago! Ballotpedia’s Election Help Desk is designed to help you sort through the layers of complexities with this year’s elections. Click here to subscribe to the Election Help Desk Newsletter.

Otherwise, stay up to date on the latest news by following us on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.


We #SCOTUS so you don't have to

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear three hours of arguments this week via teleconference with live audio. The court made the decision to hold proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19.

SCOTUS has agreed to hear 41 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. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

In its October 2019 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 61 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS will hear this week:

November 9

  • Niz-Chavez v. Barr concerns (1) the government’s ability to serve a notice to appear to a non-citizen and (2) the immigration stop-time rule, where a non-citizen’s accrual of continuous residence ends when that person is served with a notice to appear. Agusto Niz-Chavez, a native and citizen of Guatemala, came to the United States without legal permission in 2005. In 2013, he was served with a notice to appear for deportation proceedings. The notice to appear did not include the time and place of a hearing. A second notice later indicated the hearing would take place on June 25, 2013. Niz-Chavez applied for withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act and for relief under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. An immigration judge denied his motion. The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the immigration judge’s decision, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit denied a petition for review.

    Congress enacted the stop-time rule as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. The rule says a non-citizen’s accrual of continuous residence in the United States ends when the government serves the non-citizen with a notice to appear under 8 U.S.C. § 1229(a). The IIRIRA required the notice to appear to include the time and place of a hearing.

    The issue: Whether the government must provide the time and place of deportation hearings in a single notice to appear document to trigger the stop-time rule under 8 U.S.C. § 1229(a), or whether the government can provide the information in multiple documents to trigger the rule.

  • Brownback v. King concerns the judgment bar of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA judgment bar provision says: “The judgment in an action under section 1346(b) of this title shall constitute a complete bar to any action by the claimant, by reason of the same subject matter, against the employee of the government whose act or omission gave rise to the claim.” In 2014, FBI Special Agent Douglas Brownback and Grand Rapids Police Department Detective Todd Allen stopped James King, who violently resisted arrest. King was tried and acquitted of charges of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, aggravated assault of a police officer, and resisting arrest. He then sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1971). The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan ruled that Brownback and Allen had not violated King’s constitutional rights under Bivens. The district court also decided against King’s FTCA claims.

    King appealed. On appeal, Brownback and Allen argued the FTCA judgment bar prevented King’s Bivens claims. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their argument and reversed the district court’s ruling.

    The issue: Whether a final judgment against a claimant in a lawsuit brought under Section 1346(b)(1) of the FTCA prevents the claimant from bringing a claim under Bivens for the same injuries against the same government employees.

November 10

  • California v. Texas concerns the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. President Barack Obama (D) signed the ACA into law in 2010. Section 5000A of the ACA, known as the individual mandate, established requirements for individuals to have health coverage and instituted fines for those without coverage.

    In 2018, 20 states filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas challenging the individual mandate and claiming the ACA was unconstitutional. A district court judge ruled the law was invalid. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled Section 5000A was unconstitutional and remanded the case. A group of states petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review, arguing (1) the respondents did not have the legal right to challenge the law and (2) the law was constitutional. 

    The issues: (1) Whether plaintiffs have the legal right to challenge the individual mandate.

    (2) Whether reducing the amount specified for fines in Section 5000A(c) to zero made the individual mandate provision unconstitutional.

    (3) If so, whether the individual mandate provision is severable from the rest of the ACA, i.e., whether the remainder of the ACA can remain in place if the individual mandate provision is unconstitutional.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • November 9: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • November 10: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • November 13: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • November 16: SCOTUS will release orders.
  • November 20: SCOTUS will conference.
  • November 23: SCOTUS will release orders.
  • November 30: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.

SCOTUS trivia

Justice Clarence Thomas swore Justice Amy Coney Barrett into office on October 26, 2020. How many oaths of office are SCOTUS justices required to take?

  1. Nine
  2. Five
  3. Two
  4. One

Choose an answer to find out!


Federal Court action

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 October 2 to November 1.

Highlights

  • Vacancies: There have been two new judicial vacancies since the October 2020 report. As of November 1, 59 out of 870 (6.8%) active Article III judicial positions on the courts covered in this report were vacant. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 66 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.
     
  • Nominations: There have been two new nominations since the October 2020 report.
     
  • Confirmations: There have been two new confirmations since the October 2020 report.

Vacancy count for November 1, 2020

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

Two judges have left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. A presidential nomination is required to fill an Article III vacancy. Nominations are subject to the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

The chart below shows the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R) on January 20, 2017 to November 1, 2020.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map displays U.S. District Court vacancies as of November 1.

New nominations

President Trump has announced two new nominations since the October 2020 report.

The president has announced 273 Article III judicial nominations since taking office January 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017, 92 in 2018, and 77 in 2019. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

Between October 2 and November 1, 2020, the Senate confirmed two of the president’s nominees to Article III courts.

Between January 2017 and November 1, 2020, the Senate confirmed 220 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—162 district court judges, 53 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and three Supreme Court justices.

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, if you prefer, we also maintain a list of individuals the president has nominated.


Court news

In the next several Bold Justice editions, we’re taking a closer look at the U.S. Supreme Court justices. Today, we’re learning about Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Sotomayor has been an associate justice since August 6, 2009. President Barack Obama (D) nominated Sotomayor on June 1, 2009, to succeed David Souter. The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Sotomayor 68-31 on August 6, 2009.

Before joining the U.S. Supreme Court, Sotomayor was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit (1998-2009) and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (1992-1998). Before that, she was an attorney in private practice and an assistant district attorney in New York County. Click here to learn more about Sotomayor’s professional career.

Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, New York, on June 25, 1954. Her parents were born in Puerto Rico. Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian from Cardinal Spellman High School, a private Catholic school in New York City, in 1972. She earned a B.A., summa cum laude, in history from Princeton University in 1976 and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979. At Yale, she co-chaired the Latin American and Native American Students Association and was published in the Yale Law Journal (where she also served as an editor).

In the 2019-2020 term, Sotomayor wrote the following opinions:


Looking ahead

We’ll be back December 7 with a new edition of Bold Justice.

Contributions

Sara Reynolds compiled and edited this newsletter.



Trump has appointed second-most federal judges through November 1 of a president’s fourth year

Donald Trump has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 220 Article III federal judges through November 1, 2020, his fourth year in office. This is the second-most Article III judicial appointments through this point in all presidencies since Jimmy Carter (D). The Senate had confirmed 260 of Carter’s appointees at this point in his term.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through November 1 of their fourth year in office is 200.

The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is two. President Trump appointed the most with three. Presidents Barack Obama (D), Bill Clinton (D), and George H.W. Bush (R) had each appointed two Supreme Court justices at this point in their first terms. Ronald Reagan (R) had appointed one, while Carter and George W. Bush (R) had not appointed any.

The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is 35. Carter appointed the most with 55, while Clinton and Obama both appointed the least with 30 each. Trump’s 53 appointments make up 30% of the total 179 judgeships across the courts of appeal.

The median number of United States District Court appointees is 162. Carter appointed the most with 202, and Obama appointed the fewest with 128. Trump has appointed 162 district court judges so far. Those appointments make up 24% of the 677 judgeships across the district courts.

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



Bold Justice: Amy Coney Barrett joins the court



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Ballotpedia's Bold Justice

Welcome to the November 2 edition of Bold Justice, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

Election Day is tomorrow! Ballotpedia’s Election Help Desk was designed to help you sort through the layers of complexities with this year’s elections. Click here to subscribe to the Election Help Desk Newsletter.

Otherwise, stay up to date on the latest news by following us on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.


We #SCOTUS so you don't have to

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear five hours of arguments this week via teleconference with live audio. The court made the decision to hold proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19.

SCOTUS has agreed to hear 41 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. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

In its October 2019 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 61 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS will hear this week:

November 2

  • In U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club, the Sierra Club challenged an Environmental Protection Agency rule and a biological opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, Services). A biological opinion is a document stating the Services’ opinion on whether a federal agency action is likely to harm listed species or critical habitat. During that litigation, the Sierra Club submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for draft documents from a consultation between the three agencies that took place between 2011 and 2014. The Services released some documents but withheld others under FOIA Exemption 5. FOIA requires a federal agency to disclose records upon request. The law grants nine exemptions. Exemption 5 allows an agency to withhold “inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that are protected by legal privileges.”

    The Sierra Club sued Services in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which ruled Services had to disclose some documents but could withhold others. On appeal, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision. The government petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

    The issue: Whether FOIA Exemption 5 protects draft documents from compelled disclosure if the documents were (1) created during a formal interagency consultation process under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act and (2) later modified in the consultation process.

  • In Salinas v. U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, Manfredo Salinas filed an application for disability annuity with the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board’s Disability Benefits Division in 2006. The application was denied. Salinas appealed to the Board to reconsider. The Board denied the request. In 2013, Salinas filed a new application for disability annuity. The Board granted the annuity. Salinas appealed the annuity’s start date and amount, and requested that his prior applications be reviewed. The Board denied the request. On appeal, the 5th Circuit dismissed Salinas’ petition, holding the court lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision not to reopen Salinas’ earlier case. The issue: Whether, under Section 5(f) of the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act and Section 8 of the Railroad Retirement Act, the Railroad Retirement Board’s denial of a request to reopen a prior benefits determination is a final decision subject to judicial review.

November 3

  • Jones v. Mississippi concerns sentencing of juveniles—individuals under 18 years old—to life imprisonment without parole. When he was 15 years old, Brett Jones killed his grandfather. Jones was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama (2012), the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered the Lee County Circuit Court to hold a sentencing rehearing. The circuit court resentenced Jones to life in prison without parole. Jones appealed to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which rejected his argument to reverse the sentence. The state supreme court then held oral arguments for the case before dismissing it. Four judges dissented, arguing Jones’ case should be remanded with instructions to sentence him to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Jones petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review. The issue: Whether the 8th Amendment requires a sentencing authority to find that a juvenile is “permanently incorrigible” before sentencing the juvenile to life without parole.

    A juvenile is considered incorrigible when he or she refuses to accept the authority and discipline of adults in a repeated, dangerous, and disruptive way.

  • Borden v. United States concerns the “use of force” clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). Charles Borden, Jr. pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, relying on the 6th Circuit Court’s decision in United States v. Verwiebe (2017), sentenced Borden to nine years and seven months of imprisonment under the ACCA. In Verwiebe, the 6th Circuit ruled that “reckless aggravated assault is a crime of violence” under the ACCA’s use-of-force clause. Borden objected to his sentence, arguing the district court’s application of Verwiebe to his case violated due process protections. On appeal, the 6th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Borden petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

    The issue: Does the “use of force” clause in the ACCA apply to crimes committed with a reckless intent?

    The ACCA’s “use of force” clause states:

    “The term ‘violent felony’ means any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year … that—(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.”

November 4

  • In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services began an investigation into two of its foster care provider agents for potential violations of the city’s anti-discrimination laws. The investigation was based on an allegation that the agencies refused to work with same-sex couples seeking to become foster parents. One of the agencies was a religious nonprofit organization, Catholic Social Services (CSS). CSS confirmed that it would not certify same-sex couples as foster parents. The city stopped referring foster children to the agency. CSS sued the city in U.S. district court, citing violations of its rights under the First Amendment and under Pennsylvania’s Religious Freedom Protection Act.

    The district court denied the request. CSS appealed to the 3rd Circuit, seeking emergency injunctive relief pending appeal. The circuit court denied the request. Then, CSS filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court for an injunction pending appeal or an immediate grant of certiorari. The Court denied the request. On appeal, the 3rd Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.

    The issue: “Whether a Catholic social services agency that receives taxpayer funding can legally discriminate against same-sex couples to be foster parents.”

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

 Here are the upcoming dates of interest in October:

  • November 2: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • November 3: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • November 4: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • November 6: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

SCOTUS trivia

The Roberts Court started in September 2005 and is ongoing. Excluding Chief Justice Roberts, how many justices have served on the U.S. Supreme Court during the Roberts Court?

  1. 22
  2. 14
  3. 11
  4. 9

Choose an answer to find out!


Federal Court action

Confirmations

The Senate has confirmed two new nominees since our October 12 issue.

Since January 2017, the Senate has confirmed 220 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—162 district court judges, 53 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and three Supreme Court justices.

Amy Coney Barrett confirmation

On October 26, the U.S. Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The vote was mostly along party lines, with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine as the only Republican to vote with Democrats against Barrett’s confirmation.

President Trump nominated Barrett on September 29 to succeed Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on September 18 at the age of 87.

Barrett earned her bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in English literature from Rhodes College in 1994 and her J.D., summa cum laude, from Notre Dame Law School in 1997. She was awarded the law school’s Hoynes Prize, which is the law school’s highest honor. Barrett was executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review.

Barrett was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit from 2017 to 2020. From 2002 to 2017, she was a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School. She previously worked in private practice and as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (1998-1999) and to Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (1997-1998).

Barrett has explained her judicial philosophy as originalist—interpreting the U.S. Constitution according to what the words meant to the individuals who wrote it—and textualist—interpreting a law based on the words on the page, not what Congress may have intended to do when the law was passed.

Nominations

President Trump has announced two new Article III nominees since our October 12 edition.

The president has announced 273 Article III judicial nominations since taking office January 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017, 92 in 2018, and 77 in 2019. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

 

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 66 vacancies. As of publication, there were 41 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, an additional two judges have announced their intention to leave active judicial status during Trump’s first term.

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

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee has reported five new nominees out of committee since our October 12 edition.

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, if you prefer, we also maintain a list of individuals President Trump has nominated.


Court news

In the next several Bold Justice editions, we’re taking a closer look at the U.S. Supreme Court justices. Today, we’re learning about Associate Justice Samuel Alito.

Alito has been an associate justice since January 31, 2006. President George W. Bush (R) nominated Alito on November 10, 2005, to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor. The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Alito 58-42 on January 31, 2006.

Before joining the U.S. Supreme Court, Alito was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Before that, he was a U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice, and an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general. Click here to learn more about Alito’s professional career.

Alito was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1950. He earned an A.B. from Princeton University in 1972 and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1975, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. After law school, Alito was a law clerk to Judge Leonard Garth on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Alito was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War on December 1, 1969. He deferred his service while enrolled in college. At Princeton, he joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and was commissioned as a second lieutenant after his graduation. He deferred his service a second time as he entered Yale Law School. After graduation from law school, he served three months of active service from September to December of 1975. Alito served in the Army Reserve from 1972 until 1980, when he was honorably discharged with the rank of captain.

In the 2019-2020 term, Alito wrote the following opinions:


Looking ahead

We’ll be back November 9 with a new edition of Bold Justice

Contributions

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

Bold Justice has thousands of loyal readers each week.

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U.S. Senate confirms Newman to federal district court judgeship

The U.S. Senate confirmed Michael Newman to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio by a 67-30 vote on October 22, 2020. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio is one of 94 U.S. District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts.

After Newman receives his federal judicial commission and takes his judicial oath, the eight-member court will have five Republican-appointed judges and three Democrat-appointed judges. Newman will join three other judges appointed by President Trump.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed 219 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 53 appellate court judges, 162 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017.

Newman was a federal magistrate judge for the Southern District of Ohio from 2011 to 2020. Before that, he worked in private practice and as a law clerk to the Southern District of Ohio’s Magistrate Judge Jack Sherman and to U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit Judge Nathaniel Jones. Newman earned his bachelor of fine arts degree from New York University in 1982, and his J.D., cum laude, from American University’s Washington College of Law in 1989.

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U.S. Supreme Court grants expedited review of case on census count

On October 16, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted Trump v. New York for expedited review and scheduled oral argument for November 30, 2020. The case came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It concerns congressional apportionment following the 2020 U.S. Census. The U.S. government is asking the Supreme Court to consider if the president can order the U.S. secretary of commerce to exclude individuals residing unlawfully in the U.S. from the census’ apportionment base.

On July 21, 2020, President Donald Trump (R) issued a memorandum to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The memorandum said it was the policy of the United States to exclude individuals living unlawfully in the U.S. from the census apportionment base. A coalition of state and local governments sued the government in U.S. district court, arguing the policy violated the U.S. Constitution and laws governing the census and apportionment. The government argued (1) the court did not have jurisdiction to review the claims and (2) the policy was legal. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the coalition, holding the president exceeded his authority in issuing the memorandum. The government appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The government presented the following two questions to the court:

  1. Does the coalition of state and local governments have the legal right—or standing—to challenge the memorandum?
  2. Does the president have the authority to exclude individuals unlawfully residing in the U.S. from the apportionment base?

The census aims to provide a complete count of the U.S. population along with demographic data. The 2020 census is being conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Statistical information on the population collected through the census every 10 years is used for congressional apportionment and the distribution of federal funds.

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Results of Mississippi special general runoff elections

Special general runoff elections were held for Mississippi State Senate Districts 15 and 39 and Mississippi House of Representatives Districts 37 and 66 on Oct. 13, 2020. In Mississippi, special elections for state legislative offices are nonpartisan. The special general election for the four districts was held on Sept. 22, 2020. The filing deadline passed on Aug. 3, 2020.

In Senate District 15, Bart Williams won the special election with 53.6% of the vote and defeated Joyce Meek Yates. The special election was called after Gary Jackson (R) resigned on June 30, 2020. Jackson served from 2004 to 2020.

In Senate District 39, Jason Barrett won with 56.1% of the vote and defeated Bill Sones. The special election was called after Sally Doty (R) left office to become the executive director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff. She resigned on July 15, 2020. Doty served from 2012 to 2020.

In House District 37, Lynn Wright won with 63.8% of the vote and defeated David Chism. The special election was called after Gary Chism (R) resigned on June 30, 2020. Gary Chism served from 2000 to 2020.

In House District 66, De’Keither Stamps won with 61.5% of the votes and defeated Bob Lee Jr. The special election was called after Jarvis Dortch (D) resigned on July 2, 2020. Dortch served from 2016 to 2020.

As of October 2020, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Mississippi has held 36 state legislative special elections between 2010 and 2019.

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