In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from February 4, 2020, to March 2, 2020. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.
• Vacancies: There has been one new judicial vacancy since the January 2020 report. There are 72 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 10 new nominations since the January 2020 report.
• Confirmations: There have been six new confirmations since the January 2020 report.
There were 72 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 8.3, which is 0.3 percentage points lower than the vacancy percentage in January 2020.
• The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.
• One (0.6%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions is vacant.
• 69 (10.2%) 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.
One judge left active status, creating an Article III life-term judicial vacancy. As an Article III judicial position, this vacancy must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.
• Judge Andrew Brasher left his seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama after he was elevated to the U.S Court of Appeals for the 11th 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) and as of March 2, 2020.
President Trump has announced 10 new nominations since the January 2020 report.
• David Dugan, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
• Iain D. Johnston, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
• Franklin U. Valderrama, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
• Christy Wiegand, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
• Saritha Komatireddy, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
• Jennifer Rearden, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
• J. Philip Calabrese, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
• James Knepp II, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
• Brett H. Ludwig, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
• Michael J. Newman, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has nominated 249 individuals to Article III positions.
Since February 4, 2020, the U.S. Senate has confirmed six of President Trump’s nominees to Article III seats. As of March 2, 2020, the Senate has confirmed 193 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—138 district court judges, 51 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.
• Andrew Brasher, confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
• Matthew Schelp, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
• Joshua Kindred, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
• John Kness, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
• Philip Halpern, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
• Silvia Carreno-Coll, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
Click here to learn more.
- The Federal Judicial Vacancy Count 2/3/2020
- Federal judicial appointments by president
- United States federal courts
- Current federal judicial vacancies
- The Trump administration on federal courts
- Judicial vacancies during Trump’s first term
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote on February 24 that he would reconsider his 2005 Brand X opinion. He made his remarks while dissenting from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Baldwin v. U.S., which challenged Brand X. Thomas argued that Brand X appears to be “inconsistent with the Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and traditional tools of statutory interpretation.”
Brand X involved an application of the Chevron deference doctrine. Under Chevron deference, federal courts must defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous or unclear statute. Brand X built on Chevron’s foundation by requiring courts to defer to agency interpretations of statutes even when courts previously held contrary views.
Justice Thomas argued that both deference precedents undermined the requirements of the United States Constitution. He wrote, “Regrettably, Brand X has taken this Court to the precipice of administrative absolutism. Under its rule of deference, agencies are free to invent new (purported) interpretations of statutes and then require courts to reject their own prior interpretations. Brand X may well follow from Chevron, but in so doing, it poignantly lays bare the flaws of our entire executive-deference jurisprudence. Even if the Court is not willing to question Chevron itself, at the very least, we should consider taking a step away from the abyss by revisiting Brand X.”
- Chevron deference
- Deference (administrative state)
- Taxonomy of arguments about judicial deference
- Judicial deference: a timeline
- Kisor v. Wilkie
Link to Justice Thomas’ dissent: https://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/022420zor_mjo1.pdf