Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for July 2020

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies to all United States Article III federal courts from July 2, 2020, to August 3, 2020. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.


Vacancies: There have been two new judicial vacancies since the June 2020 report. There are 73 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 79 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.
Nominations: There have been no new nominations since the June 2020 report.

Confirmations: There have been two new confirmations since the June 2020 report.

New vacancies

There were 73 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 8.4.
• The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.
• None of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.
• 71 (10.5%) 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 U.S. Constitution, are appointed for life terms.

Two judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, these vacancies must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.
1. Judge Virginia Covington assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

2. Judge Federico Moreno assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

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 Trump’s inauguration and as of August 1, 2020.

New nominations

Trump has not announced any new nominations since the June 2020 report. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has nominated 262 individuals to Article III positions.

New confirmations
Since July 2, 2020, the United States Senate has confirmed two of Trump’s nominees to Article III seats.
• David Joseph, confirmed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

• Scott Hardy, confirmed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

As of August 3, 2020, the Senate has confirmed 202 of Trump’s judicial nominees—145 district court judges, 53 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.

Additional reading:

3,079 major party candidates filed for 2020 Congress elections

As of August 3, 3,079 major party candidates have filed to run for the Senate and House of Representatives in 2020.

So far, 486 candidates are filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to run for U.S. Senate. Of those, 383—195 Democrats and 188 Republicans—are from one of the two major political parties. In 2018, 527 candidates filed with the FEC to run for U.S. Senate, including 137 Democrats and 240 Republicans.

For U.S. House, 3,097 candidates have filed with the FEC to run. Of those, 2,696—1,263 Democrats and 1,433 Republicans—are from one of the two major political parties. In 2018, 3,244 candidates filed with the FEC, including 1,566 Democrats and 1,155 Republicans.

Thirty-seven members of the U.S. House are not seeking re-election in 2020. That includes 27 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one Libertarian. Most recently, Rep. Justin Amash (L) announced he would not seek re-election in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District.  Four senators (three Republicans and one Democrat) are not running for re-election. In 2018, 55 total members of Congress—18 Democrats and 37 Republicans—did not seek re-election.

On November 3, 2020, 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election. Of those Senate seats, 33 are regularly scheduled elections, while the other two are special elections in Arizona and Georgia. Twelve are Democratic-held seats and 23 are Republican-held seats. In the House, Democrats currently hold a majority with 232 seats.

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Trump ties with Clinton for most federal judges through August 1 of a president’s fourth year

Donald Trump has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 202 Article III federal judges through August 1, 2020, his fourth year in office. Trump has appointed the most Article III judges through this point in all presidencies since Bill Clinton (D), who also had appointed 202 judges.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through August 1 of their fourth year in office is 188.

The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is two. Along with President Trump, 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 54, while Reagan appointed the least with 27. Trump’s 53 appointments make up 29.6% of the total 179 judgeships across the courts of appeal.

The median number of United States District Court appointees is 145. Carter appointed the most with 190, and Reagan appointed the fewest with 117. Trump has appointed 145 district court judges so far. Those appointments make up 21.4% 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.

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Upcoming filing deadlines for independent presidential candidates from August 3 to August 9

Although there is no formal, national deadline to file to run for president of the United States, independent presidential candidates must keep a close eye on the election calendar as each state has its own filing requirements and deadline to qualify to appear on the general election ballot.

These requirements may include submitting a petition with a certain number of signatures or paying a filing fee.

Filing deadlines for independent presidential candidates have already passed in 12 states:

• Florida (July 15)
• Illinois (July 20)
• Indiana (June 30)
• Maine (July 25)
• Michigan (July 16)
• Missouri (July 27)
• New Mexico (June 25)
• New York (July 30)
• North Carolina (March 3)
• Oklahoma (July 15)
• South Carolina (July 15)

• Texas (May 11)

In the week of August 3, there are 16 filing deadlines:

• August 3, 2020: Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and West Virginia
• August 4, 2020: West Virginia and South Dakota
• August 5, 2020: Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, and Ohio
• August 7, 2020: California, Connecticut, and Washington

There are three filing deadlines the following week.

The following chart shows how many days are left until each remaining state’s filing deadline passes:

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Marshall defeats Kobach in Kansas’ Republican primary for U.S. Senate

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall defeated former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, plumber Bob Hamilton, and eight others in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kansas. As of 9:25 p.m. Central Time, Marshall had received 37% of the vote followed by Kobach and Hamilton with 26% and 20%, respectively. No other candidate received over 10% of the vote.
During the primary, Marshall said he had a record of accomplishments in the House including sitting on the Agriculture Committee, ensuring that protections for crop insurance were included in the Farm Bill, and passing a bill to reduce tax rates.
Since July 15, the Sunflower State super PAC has spent over $4 million worth of satellite spending in the primary principally supporting Kobach. Media outlets wrote that the group had Democratic connections, and Politico reported that one of the group’s ads was “engineered to drive conservative voters towards Kobach.”

LaTurner defeats incumbent Watkins in KS-02 GOP primary

Jake LaTurner won Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District Republican primary with 49% of the vote to incumbent Steve Watkins’ 34% and Dennis Taylor’s 17%, with 57% of precincts reporting. Watkins is the sixth incumbent representative defeated in a primary in 2020. He was first elected in 2018, defeating Paul Davis (D) by less than 1 percentage point.
Gov. Sam Brownback (R) appointed LaTurner as Kansas treasurer in 2017, and LaTurner was elected to remain in office in 2018. He is the youngest statewide elected official in the U.S.
On July 14, Watkins was charged with voter fraud, having used the address of a UPS store on his voter registration form. Watkins said he mistakenly used his mailing address instead of his residential address and that the charges were politically motivated.

Federal Register weekly update: Two new significant final rules published

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.

From July 27 to July 31, the Federal Register grew by 1,474 pages for a year-to-date total of 46,530 pages. Over the same period in 2019 and 2018, the Federal Register reached 37,954 pages and 38,244 pages, respectively. As of July 31, the 2020 total led the 2019 total by 8,576 pages and the 2018 total by 8,286 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 522 documents:
• 410 notices
• eight presidential documents
• 38 proposed rules

• 66 final rules

Two final rules concerning chemicals regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act and surety companies certified by the Department of the Treasury were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they could have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Trump administration in 2020 has issued 23 significant proposed rules, 41 significant final rules, and one significant notice as of July 24.

Not all rules issued by the Trump administration are regulatory actions. Some rules are deregulatory actions pursuant to President Trump’s (R) Executive Order 13771, which requires federal agencies to eliminate two old significant regulations for each new significant regulation issued.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

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Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2018

Previewing Missouri’s 1st Congressional District Democratic primary

Incumbent William Lacy Clay, Katherine Bruckner, and Cori Bush are running in the Aug. 4 Democratic Party primary in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District. Bush challenged Clay in the district’s 2018 Democratic primary, which Clay won, receiving 57% of the vote to Bush’s 37%.

Clay was first elected in 2000, replacing his father, former Rep. William Lacy Clay, Sr. (D). Clay Jr. served in the Missouri State Legislature from 1983 to 2001. He received endorsements from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In their endorsement, the Post-Dispatch’s editorial board wrote, “[Clay] has been a steady, predictable representative and a reliable vote for mainstream Democratic priorities — including the fight against poverty and for social justice.”

Bush is a nurse and civil rights organizer who was involved with demonstrations in Ferguson after the shooting death of Michael Brown by police. She received endorsements from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jamaal Bowman (D), a candidate in New York’s 16th District who defeated 16-term incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel (D) in the district’s June 23 primary. In his endorsement, Bowman said, “Bush understands the struggles facing her communities, because she’s lived them herself … She will fight to confront racist and reckless policing … and I’m proud to support her grassroots campaign.”

Pre-primary reports show Clay raising $744,000 and Bush with $569,000. At this same point in the 2018 primary, Clay had raised $407,000 compared to Bush’s $139,000.

Clay and his father have represented the 1st District since 1969. Three race-tracking outlets rate the district as Solid/Safe Democratic. The winner of the primary will face Libertarian Alex Furman and the winner of the Republican primary, either Winnie Heartstrong or Anthony Rogers, in the general election.