Author

Sara Reynolds

Sara Reynolds is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at sara.reynolds@ballotpedia.org

July 2019 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 52.2% Republicans, 47.0% Democrats

July’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States shows 52.2% of all state legislators are Republicans and 47.0% are Democrats, which is consistent with previous months.
 
Ballotpedia also completes a count of the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. The partisan composition of state legislatures refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state senate and state house. Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold the majority in 37 chambers. One chamber (Alaska’s state House) shares power between the two parties.
 
Altogether, there are 1,972 state senators and 5,411 state representatives. Republicans held 1,084 state senate seats–down two seats from June–and 2,770 state house seats–down six seats. Democrats held 3,468 of the 7,383 state legislative seats–880 state Senate seats (up one seat from June) and 2,588 state House seats (no change). Independent or third-party legislators held 34 seats–down three seats from June. There were 27 vacant seats.
 
At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.
 


Kansas governor to appoint two state supreme court justices

Governor Laura Kelly (D) of Kansas will be able to appoint two justices to the seven-member Kansas Supreme Court due to two justices retiring in 2019. Justice Lee Johnson will retire on September 8, and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss will retire on December 17.
 
Under Kansas law, in the event of a state supreme court vacancy, the governor selects a replacement from a list of three individuals submitted by the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission. Newly appointed justices serve for at least one year, after which they must run for retention in the next general election. Subsequent terms last for six years. Johnson’s and Nuss’ replacements will be Gov. Kelly’s first and second nominees to the court.
 
The Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission is a nine-member independent body created by the state’s constitution to recommend individuals to the governor for appointment to the state supreme court. When a vacancy opens on the court, the commission reviews applications and interviews candidates in public hearings. The commission then recommends three candidates to the governor.
 
The commission has nine members: four must be non-attorneys and are appointed by the governor, while another four are attorneys selected by members of the bar in each of the state’s four congressional districts. The chair of the commission, the ninth member, is a lawyer chosen in a statewide vote of lawyers who belong to the Kansas Bar Association.
 
The court’s chief justice is chosen by seniority. Justice Marla Luckert will succeed Nuss as chief justice of the court.
 
The Kansas Supreme Court currently consists of:
  • Justice Carol Beier – Appointed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D)
  • Justice Daniel Biles – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
  • Justice Lee Johnson – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
  • Justice Eric Rosen – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
  • Justice Caleb Stegall – Appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback (R)
  • Justice Marla Luckert – Appointed by Gov. Bill Graves (R)
  • Justice Lawton Nuss – Appointed by Gov. Graves
 
The Kansas Supreme Court is the highest court in Kansas. It sits in Topeka in the Kansas Judicial Center.
 


U.S. Senate confirms 9th Circuit nominee over home-state objections

The U.S. Senate confirmed Daniel Bress to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on July 9, 2019. The Senate voted 53-45 along party lines to confirm Bress. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) did not vote. President Donald Trump (R) nominated Bress on February 6, 2019, to succeed Judge Alex Kozinski.
 
The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is one of 13 U.S. courts of appeal. They are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal court system. After Bress receives commission and takes his judicial oath, the 9th Circuit will have 16 judges appointed by Democrats, 12 judges appointed by Republicans, and one vacant seat.
 
Bress graduated with his A.B. in government from Harvard College in 2001. He obtained his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2005. He worked as an associate and later partner for the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP from 2008 to 2019. Bress was a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia from 2006 to 2007.
 
Bress was born in California and lived in Virginia at the time of his nomination. On March 7, 2019, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote in an op-ed that she was concerned about Bress’ confirmation. She wrote: “[Bress] was born in California but practices law in Washington, D.C., and lives in Virginia. … Given California’s demographics and the high quality of its educational institutions – and given California’s centrality to the Ninth Circuit – I don’t understand why the White House would choose someone with such a limited connection to the state.”
 
The White House denied claims that Bress did not have ties to California. According to the Sacramento Bee, an anonymous administration official said Bress worked out of Kirkland & Ellis’ San Francisco office and owned property and paid taxes in the state.
 
Neither Sen. Feinstein nor Sen. Kamala Harris (D) of California returned blue slips for Bress’ nomination. A blue slip is a piece of paper a home-state senator returns to the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee to show his or her approval of a federal judicial nominee. Traditionally, United States senators have the power to prevent a federal judicial nominee from receiving a hearing and subsequently being confirmed by withholding a blue slip. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, applies a policy in which the lack of a blue slip does not prevent a judicial nominee from moving forward in the confirmation process.
 


U.S. Supreme Court releases November argument calendar

The U.S. Supreme Court released its November argument calendar for the 2019-2020 term. The court will hear 10 hours of oral argument in 12 cases between November 4 and November 13.
 
As of June 28, 2019, the court had agreed to hear 44 cases in the upcoming term.
 
November 4
  • Barton v. Barr asks whether a lawfully admitted permanent resident who is not seeking admission to the United States can be “inadmissible” under a federal law that ends the accrual of continuous residence if the permanent resident commits a crime that would make them inadmissible to the U.S.
  • Kansas v. Glover asks whether, for investigative purposes under the Fourth Amendment, it is reasonable for a law enforcement officer to assume that a vehicle’s registered owner is the one driving the vehicle without any other information.
November 5
  • CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. v. Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd. asks whether under federal maritime law a safe berth clause in a voyage charter contract is a guarantee of a ship’s safety, as the 3rd Circuit and the 2nd Circuit have held, or a duty of due diligence, as the 5th Circuit has held.
  • Allen v. Cooper asks whether Congress had the authority to repeal states’ immunity from legal challenges under the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act.
November 6
  • County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund asks whether the Clean Water Act requires a permit to discharge waste when pollutants originate from a point source (an area where pollutants may be discharged) but are brought by navigable waters to a non-point source, such as groundwater.
  • Retirement Plan Committee of IBM v. Jander asks whether a pleading standard established by U.S. Supreme Court precedent can be satisfied by general allegations that the harm of undisclosed fraud increases over time.
November 12
  • Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California asks (1) whether the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is judicially reviewable and (2) whether the decision was lawful. This case is consolidated with Trump v. NAACP and McAleenan v. Vidal.
  • Hernandez v. Mesa asks whether courts can and should recognize a damages claim against a law enforcement officer when plaintiffs allege the officer violated Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.
November 13
  • Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American-Owned Media asks whether a plaintiff bringing a claim of race discrimination is required to prove the defendant would have acted differently if not for the plaintiff’s race.
  • Ritzen Group Inc. v. Jackson Masonry, LLC asks whether an order denying a motion to lift an automatic stay in bankruptcy is a final order that can be appealed.
Additional reading:


U.S. Supreme Court releases October argument calendar

The U.S. Supreme Court released its October argument calendar for the 2019-2020 term. The court will begin the new term on October 7. It will hear argument in 14 cases, some of which are consolidated, totaling nine hours of argument between October 7 and October 16.
 
As of June 28, 2019, the court had agreed to hear 44 cases in the upcoming term.
 
October 7
  • Kahler v. Kansas asks whether the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense.
  • Peter v. NantKwest asks whether applicants challenging a patent rejection under Section 145 of the U.S. Patent Act must pay attorneys’ fees for the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Ramos v. Louisiana asks whether the Fourteenth Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict.
October 8
  • Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia (consolidated with Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda) asks whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes prohibited employment discrimination “because of … sex” within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC asks whether Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender people based on (1) their status as transgender or (2) sex stereotyping under previous Supreme Court precedent.
October 15
  • Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Aurelius Investment, LLC (consolidated with Aurelius Investment, LLC v. Puerto Rico, Official Committee of Debtors v. Aurelius Investment, LLC, United States v. Aurelius Investment, LLC, and UTIER v. Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico) asks whether the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution governs the appointment of members of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico.
October 16
  • Kansas v. Garcia asks (1) whether the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) preempts states from using information from federal I-9 forms to prosecute a person when that same information is on non-IRCA forms and (2) whether the IRCA preempts Kansas’ prosecutions of Ramiro Garcia, Donaldo Morales, and Guadalupe Ochoa-Lara.
  • Rotkiske v. Klemm asks whether the statute of limitations on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act begins to run when a potential plaintiff discovers the violation or when the would-be defendant violates the act.
  • Mathena v. Malvo asks whether a Supreme Court decision prohibiting mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles applies when those sentences are mandatory.
Additional reading:


State legislative party breakdown nationwide at the end of June—52.3% Republicans, 47.0% Democrats

June’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States shows 52.3% of all state legislators are Republicans and 47.0% are Democrats, consistent with previous months.
 
Ballotpedia completes a count of the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. The partisan composition of state legislatures refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state senate and state house. Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold the majority in 37 chambers. One chamber (Alaska’s state House) shares power between the two parties. Altogether, there are 1,972 state senators and 5,411 state representatives.
 
Of the 7,383 state legislative seats in the country, Republicans held 1,086 state senate seats–up four seats from May 2019–and 2,776 state house seats–down two seats. Democrats held 3,467 of the 7,383 state legislative seats–879 state Senate seats (up one seat from May) and 2,588 state House seats (up one seat). Independent or third-party legislators held 33 seats–consistent with May. There were 21 vacant seats.
 
At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.
 


SCOTUS wraps up 2018 term

Welcome to the July 1 edition of Bold Justice, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S. 

Opinions

SCOTUS has ruled on 23 cases since our June 17 issue. The court has finished issuing rulings in the 69 cases it heard this term. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ 2018-2019 term.

 Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS ruled on since June 17:

June 17

June 20

June 21

June 24

June 26

June 27

Looking back at the 2018 term

  • Cases: The court issued decisions in 68 of the 69 cases it heard this term. The court scheduled Carpenter v. Murphy for reargument in its October 2019-2020 term. Three additional cases were decided without argument. 
  • Decisions: The court issued:
    • 5-4 decisions in 18 cases,
    • unanimous decisions in 24 cases, and
    • per curiam decisions (in which authorship is not specified) in five cases.
  • Noteworthy per curiam decision: On April 23, 2019, the court dismissed Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian as improvidently granted. Dismissed as improvidently granted, or DIG, occurs when the court chooses not to decide a case, even after accepting the appeal or hearing the arguments.

Decisions by justice table

Looking ahead to the 2019 term

SCOTUS is in recess until October. It will begin hearing cases for the 2019 term on October 7. As of June 27, the court had accepted 42 cases. Of the 42 cases, 10 are consolidated. They are:

Click here to find out more about the upcoming 2019-2020 term.

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 May 30 to June 26, 2019.

Vacancy count for June 26, 2019

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.

Vacancies by court table

New vacancies

The following judges left active status, creating Article III vacancies. As Article III judicial positions, they must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

As of June 26, 118 of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report were vacant—a vacancy percentage of 13.6 percent.

Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 127 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

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

Federal vacancy count map

New nominations

President Trump announced three new nominations since the May 2019 report. 

  • Halil Ozerden, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
  • John Kness, to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
  • Justin Walker, to the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.

The president has announced 191 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on January 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017 and 92 in 2018. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

Between May 30 and June 26, 2019, the Senate confirmed 11 of the president’s nominees to Article III courts. Since January 2017, the Senate has confirmed 123 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—80 district court judges, 41 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We maintain a list of individuals President Trump has nominated.



A closer look at Trump’s twice-nominated judge: Peter Phipps

President Donald Trump (R) has announced 190 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on January 20, 2017. Two of those individuals, Peter Phipps and A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr., were nominated twice to different courts.
 
On February 15, 2018, Trump first nominated Phipps to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The U.S. Senate confirmed Phipps to the District Court on October 11, 2018, by voice vote. On May 13, 2019, the president then nominated Phipps to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.
 
Phipps was nominated to the Western District of Pennsylvania on recommendation from Pennsylvania Senators Pat Toomey (R) and Bob Casey Jr. (D). Toomey also supported Phipps’ 3rd Circuit nomination, saying, “Judge Phipps will make an outstanding addition to the Third Circuit. He has the experience, intellect and integrity to be a superb circuit court judge.” Casey, however, expressed opposition to the second nomination and questioned whether “six months on that bench is sufficient experience or preparation” for a Circuit Court elevation. Casey also said, “Circuit court judges are often asked to decide questions of law that can have an enormous impact on Americans’ lives, and I have significant concerns about Judge Phipps’ judicial and constitutional philosophy.”
 
The United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit is one of 13 U.S. courts of appeal. They are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal court system. The court has 14 authorized judgeships and one current vacancy. Republican presidents appointed seven of the current judges. Democratic presidents appointed the remaining six judges. The 3rd Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
 
Phipps was born in Abilene, Texas, in 1973. He received a B.S. in physics and a B.A. in history from the University of Dayton in 1995. He obtained a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1998. During his legal studies, Phipps served as a managing editor of the Stanford Law Review from 1997 to 1998. He worked in private practice from 1998 to 2001 and then became a law clerk to Judge Guy Cole of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals from 2001 to 2002. From 2003 to 2018, Phipps was an attorney with the Federal Programs Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division.
 
The president has also nominated A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. twice. Quattlebaum Jr. was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina in 2017 and confirmed in March 2018. In May 2018, the president nominated Quattlebaum to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination on August 16, 2018.
 


SCOTUS to release 24 opinions by end of term

The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing cases for the 2018 term on October 1, 2018, and wrapped up oral arguments on April 24, 2019. As of June 10, the court has issued opinions in 45 of the 69 cases this term, meaning the court has 24 opinions to deliver before the end of the term.
 
At this time in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court had issued opinions in 42 of 63 cases. The court had not issued opinions in 21 cases.
 
Outstanding opinions by month of oral argument:
 
2018-2019 term
(current term)
 
October: One opinion
November: Two opinions
December: One opinion
January: Two opinions
February: Three opinions
March: Seven opinions
April:  Eight opinions
 
2017-2018 term
(last term)
October: One opinion
November: One opinion
December: None
January: Two opinions
February: Six opinions
March: Two opinions
April: Nine opinions
 
Outstanding opinions by circuit:
 
2018-2019 term
(current term)
2nd Circuit: Four opinions
3rd Circuit: One opinion
4th Circuit: Three opinions
5th Circuit: One opinion
6th Circuit: One opinion
8th Circuit: One opinion
9th Circuit: One opinion
10th Circuit: Two opinions
11th Circuit: Two opinions
Federal Circuit: Two opinions
State/other: Six opinions
 
2017-2018 term
(last term)
1st Circuit: One opinion
2nd Circuit: Two opinions
6th Circuit: One opinion
7th Circuit: Two opinions
8th Circuit: One opinion
9th Circuit: Two opinions
10th Circuit: One opinion
11th Circuit: Two opinions
Federal Circuit: One opinion
D.C. Circuit: One opinion
State/other: Six opinions
Original jurisdiction cases: One opinion
 
Additional reading:


GOP Senate Judiciary Committee members oppose Trump judicial nominee

Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Ted Cruz (Texas), both Republicans and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed the nomination of Michael Bogren to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. President Donald Trump nominated Bogren to the court on March 11, 2019, and the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nomination on May 22.
 
During the committee hearing, Hawley asked Bogren about litigation representing the city of East Lansing, Michigan. Steve and Bridget Tennes, the owners of Country Mill Farms, sued East Lansing after the city barred them from participating in the city-run farmers market. The city barred the farm after Steve Tennes wrote on Facebook that he believed “marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman” and “he honors his religious belief when hosting and participating in weddings at Country Mill.” Bogren represented East Lansing in the litigation.
 
Hawley said Bogren “compared a Catholic family’s adherence to the teachings of their church to the activities of the KKK and the teachings of radical imams.” Bogren responded, “Respectfully, that is not what I said. […] The point I was trying to make was that religious beliefs trying to justify discrimination if extended to sexual orientation, which the city of East Lansing protects, could be used to try to justify any other sort of discrimination, whether it be gender or race.”
 
Hawley also published an op-ed for National Review where he wrote that Bogren’s “hostility toward [the Catholic family’s] faith raises questions about his fitness to be a federal judge. … It’s one thing to advocate on behalf of your client, but Bogren went too far.”
 
Sen. Cruz agreed with Hawley in a tweet: “The nominee didn’t just represent a client; at his confirmation, he affirmatively declared ‘there is no distinction’ [between] Catholic teachings and KKK bigotry. I’m a NO. And POTUS should withdraw the nomination.”
 
Writing in support of Bogren, Margot Cleveland, a contributor for The Federalist and Bogren’s cousin, said Bogren “is not anti-Catholic. … Conservatives using Bogren’s clients and zealous representation of their legal interests to scuttle a nomination aren’t thinking this through.”
 
The Wall Street Journal editorial board also argued in favor of Bogren. “Mr. Hawley’s questioning is a precedent that conservatives will regret,” the Journal editorial board wrote. “If nominees can be disqualified for every argument they make for a client, conservative judicial nominees will soon find themselves blocked from judgeships for defending religious liberty.”
 
Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats from Michigan, negotiated with the White House regarding the nomination. Stabenow said after the nomination was announced, “Today’s announcement is welcome news following months of bipartisan discussions with the White House. I look forward to the Senate Judiciary Committee considering these nominees.”
 
The United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan is one of 94 U.S. district courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts.
 


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