Trifecta control changed in 12 states in 2010 where state legislatures were responsible for redistricting
Eleven states are holding gubernatorial elections in 2020, and 44 are holding state legislative elections. In a majority of these states, the officials elected in 2020 will play a part in redrawing legislative maps governing elections for the subsequent 10 years.
The process by which legislative district boundaries are drawn is called redistricting. Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau delivers detailed population datasets to the states. Redistricting authorities in the states use these datasets to redraw congressional, state legislative, and even local district maps.
In 34 states holding state legislative elections in 2020, the legislatures themselves will play a significant role in that state’s 2020 redistricting. In eight of next year’s gubernatorial elections, the winner will have veto authority over the state legislative or congressional district plans approved by legislatures.
Redistricting authorities in the United States
The 2010 election and redistricting cycle illustrate how elections can affect the redistricting process.
Trifecta control—where one party controls the governorship and both chambers of a state’s legislature— changed as a result of the 2010 elections in 12 states where legislatures were responsible for redistricting. Prior to these elections, seven of the 12 were Democratic trifectas and the rest had divided governments.
- Six states changed from a Democratic trifecta to divided government—Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin.
- Five states changed from divided government to a Republican trifecta—Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania.
- One state—Maine—changed from a Democratic to Republican trifecta.
Of the 12 states which saw trifecta control change in 2010, three—Alabama, Indiana, and Ohio—are currently Republican trifectas. Three states have become Democratic trifectas—Colorado, Oregon, and Maine. The rest are divided governments.
Our briefing yesterday discussed which states have changed their redistricting processes since the 2010 cycle, recent federal and state court decisions regarding partisan gerrymandering, and the upcoming 2020 Census. If you weren’t able to attend, click here to view the recording.
At Ballotpedia, we provide election coverage of all officeholders in the nation’s 100 largest cities—including mayors, city council members, and other municipal officers. We also cover every election on the ballot in these cities, such as county officials and local ballot measures.
Here’s our weekly summary of the local news we’re covering. Email me to suggest some interesting local election coverage in your area—I’d love to hear about it!
Former at-large councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin finished first with 38% of the vote and attorney Charles Francis finished second with 31% in Raleigh’s mayoral general election October 8. Since no candidate received a majority of the vote in the six-candidate field, a runoff will be held on November 5 if Francis requests it. Second-place finishers have until October 17 to ask for a runoff.
Raleigh also held elections for all seven city council seats—two at-large and five district seats. Six of seven incumbents ran for re-election. Three incumbents won outright in the primary, one was defeated, and two incumbents—at-large councilman Russ Stephenson and District D councilwoman Kay Crowder—qualified for a runoff. Neither Stephenson nor Crowder has said whether they will request a runoff.
Two incumbent Birmingham City Council members appeared to win special elections October 8 and a third incumbent advanced to a November 19 runoff. The three incumbents had all been appointed by the council in 2018 to fill vacancies after the previous members had resigned. The winners of these elections will serve until all nine council seats will next be up for regular election in 2021.
Vote counting on election night was delayed because voting machine memory cards that contained results were inadvertently placed in sealed boxes with paper ballots in certain precincts. The results on those cards were tabulated after the sealed boxes were opened the following day after a judge’s order.
Voters also appeared to approve three ballot measures renewing property taxes for the city’s public schools. Election night results showed all three measures ahead with about 90 percent of voters approving them. The total tax rate renewed by the propositions was $0.98 per $100 of taxable property for 25 years. Birmingham City Schools reported that the taxes generate about $32 million per year—14% of its annual budget. The taxes were last approved in 1991 and were set to expire in September 2021.
Quiz: How many Louisiana state legislative seats switched partisan control in 2015?
Our Brew story Tuesday previewing Louisiana’s October 12 state legislative primary elections—happening alongside the gubernatorial and other state executive primaries—said that contested elections will be held in 94 seats this year, more than either the 2011 or 2015 election cycles. There were 70 contested state legislative elections in 2015 and 81 in 2011.
Louisiana voters will elect all 144 members of the state legislature—39 state Senators and 105 state Representatives—using what’s known as a blanket primary, where all candidates appear on the ballot, regardless of party. Any candidate that receives more than 50 percent of the primary vote wins the election outright. If not, a general election will be held for the top two finishers Nov. 16.
This caused me to wonder—and quiz our Brew readers—how many Louisiana state legislative seats switched partisan control in 2015?
This decade featured the fewest California ballot propositions in the state’s history
Since California has finalized its 2019 general election ballot, I wanted to share the results of our analysis of the number of ballot measures in the state this decade.
- Between 2010 and 2019, there were 69 statewide ballot measures in California, which means this decade featured the fewest number of measures since voters adopted the initiative process in 1911.
- The number of citizen-initiated measures—51—was the third-most over the previous 11 decades.
- Over the last ten years, the state legislature passed fewer constitutional amendments, referred statutes, and general obligation bonds decided by voters.
After peaking at 142 ballot measures in the 1970s, the number of ballot measures appearing on the ballot in California has decreased each decade. The average decade featured 116 ballot propositions, of which 39 were citizen-initiated.
In 1912, California voters decided the first citizen-initiated measures. Since then, there have been 1,271 ballot measures. Of those, 428—or 34%—were put on the ballot through citizen petitions which came either through the initiative or the veto referendum process.
The approval rate for all ballot measures in California—citizen-initiated measures and legislative referrals—from 1912 to 2019 is 57%. The approval rate for citizen initiatives during this time is 36%.
Due to turnout in California’s 2018 gubernatorial election—which determines the number of signatures required for the two successive general elections—signature requirements increased by 70.3%. During the next two cycles—2020 and 2022—citizen-initiated measures will require the largest number of signatures to make the ballot in the state’s history. An initiated constitutional amendment will require 997,139 valid signatures and an initiated statute or veto referendum will require 623,212 valid signatures.
Louisiana’s 94 contested legislative elections this fall outpaces 2011 and 2015
Louisiana voters head to the polls October 12 (yes, this Saturday) to cast their ballots in the state’s legislative primaries. There are 94 contested legislative elections this year — more than there were in either the 2011 or 2015 election cycles.
There are 11 state Senate and 39 state House races that are uncontested in 2019, which is less than the number in the last two election cycles. In 2015, 21 Senate and 53 House races had a single candidate, while in 2011, 20 Senate and 43 House races had one candidate. In addition to elections for governor, six other statewide executive offices, and eight seats on the state board of education, Louisiana voters will elect all 39 members of the state Senate and 105 representatives in the state House. These are the first state legislative elections since 2015.
Louisiana uses what’s known as a blanket primary, where all candidates in any race appear on the ballot Oct. 12—regardless of party. A candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50 percent of the primary vote. If not, then a general election for the top two finishers will be held Nov. 16.
Here’s how many races were decided in the primary versus the general election in the last two cycles:
- There were 18 contested elections for state Senate seats in 2015. Fourteen races were decided in the primary and four in the general election.
- There were 19 contested state Senate elections in 2011—with 15 races decided in the primary and four in the general election.
- Fifty-two state House seats featured contested elections in 2015 with 37 races decided in the primary election and 15 in the general election.
- Of the 62 contested state House elections in 2011, 41 were decided in the primary election and 21 in the general election.
Republicans currently hold a 25-14 majority in the state Senate. There are 60 Republicans, 39 Democrats, and five independents—with one vacancy in the state House. Heading into the elections, Louisiana is under a divided government; Gov. John Bel Edwards is Democratic while Republicans control both legislative chambers.
Click the link below to learn more about Louisiana’s 2019 elections.
Warren leads Democratic presidential candidates in Ballotpedia pageviews for second consecutive week
As part of our coverage of the presidential race, we track and report the number of views the candidates’ 2020 presidential campaign pages receive to show who is getting our readers’ attention.
For the week ending Oct. 5, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign page on Ballotpedia received 3,071 pageviews, more than any other Democratic candidate. This was the second consecutive week Warren’s page received the most pageviews among the Democratic field.
Andrew Yang’s page had the second-most pageviews during this week and Joe Biden’s page was third. The only Democratic candidate to receive more pageviews last week than the week before was Tom Steyer, whose pageviews increased by 33.6%.
Andrew Yang remains the leader in overall pageviews among Democratic presidential candidates in 2019 with 124,790. He is followed by Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and Warren. Those five candidates have each had more than 100,000 pageviews this year.
See the full data on all presidential candidates below.
October 8, 2019: Amy Klobuchar’s campaign raised $4.8 million last quarter. Next Tuesday’s 12-candidate Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio, will be the largest single primary debate ever.
In the past century, which presidential election had the highest estimated voter turnout?
“One thing we can say for sure is that something has changed in the race in the wake of Sanders’ heart attack. The burden of proof has now shifted directly to Sanders and, to a slightly lesser extent, Biden and Warren. Rather than their opponents needing to find some non-tacky way to raise the age question, that trio now has to find ways to address voter concerns about it. Which is a subtle but important shift — particularly given that it is very hard to ask questions about whether candidates are too old without getting major blowback.”
—Chris Cillizza, CNN
What We’re Reading
Flashback: October 8, 2015
CNN Business detailed then-candidate Donald Trump’s (R) efforts to prevent the use of his trademarked phrase “Make America Great Again” on merchandise sold by vendors other than his official campaign website.
Ranked-choice voting round-up: the state of play heading into November
On Nov. 5, voters in New York City will decide on a city charter amendment that would, if adopted, establish ranked-choice voting (RCV) for municipal primary and special elections beginning in 2021. If approved, the amendment will make New York the largest city in the nation to use RCV for local elections.
What municipalities have enacted, or are set to enact, RCV in 2019? The following cities either have used or will use RCV for the first time as part of their 2019 election cycles: Eastpointe, Michigan; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Payton, Utah; St. Louis Park, Minnesota; and Vineyard, Utah.
How many jurisdictions have adopted RCV? On the map below, states shaded in blue and gold contain jurisdictions that have adopted RCV as part of their election processes. States shaded in yellow either have implemented or will implement RCV this year. States shaded in blue have adopted, but not yet implemented, RCV. To date, 21 jurisdictions (20 municipalities and one state, Maine) have adopted RCV and have either begun using it or are scheduled to begin using it in a coming election cycle. Another seven jurisdictions (six municipalities one state, Utah) have adopted legislation providing for the prospective use of RCV, although none mandate its use.
What other noteworthy developments involving RCV have occurred this year? Maine is expected to use RCV in the 2020 presidential election, making it the first jurisdiction to do so. On Sept. 6, Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) announced she would take no immediate action on legislation providing for the use of RCV in presidential elections. Instead, Mills signaled she would allow LD1083 to become law without her signature in January. As a result, the law will not take effect in time for the March 3 primaries, but it will be in effect for the 2020 general election.
According to FairVote, a group that advocates for the expanded use of RCV, the following presidential preference primaries and nominating caucuses will incorporate RCV in 2020:
- Nevada: Early voters in Democratic caucuses in February 2020
- Hawaii: All voters in Democratic primary in April 2020
- Alaska: All voters in Democratic primary in April 2020
- Kansas: All voters in Democratic primary in May 2020
- Wyoming: All voters in Democratic primary in April 2020
Redistricting in North Carolina: litigation update
On Sept. 27, a group of 14 registered Democratic voters in North Carolina filed a suit in state superior court alleging that the state’s congressional district plan is an illegal partisan gerrymander under the state constitution.
This lawsuit comes after a three-judge panel of the state superior court struck down North Carolina’s state legislative district plan for impermissible partisan gerrymandering. In that ruling, handed down on Sept. 3, the court held that the maps “do not permit voters to freely choose their representative, but rather representatives are choosing voters based upon sophisticated partisan sorting. It is not the free will of the people that is fairly ascertained through extreme partisan gerrymandering. Rather, it is the carefully crafted will of the map drawer that predominates.” The court ordered lawmakers to draft remedial maps.
On Sept. 17, one day before the court-mandated deadline, the state legislature adopted remedial House and Senate maps and submitted them to the court. The remedial House map can be accessed here. The remedial Senate map can be accessed here. In a court filing dated Sept. 27, the plaintiffs in the original suit objected to 19 remedial state House districts. They did not object to any of the remedial state Senate maps. On Oct. 4, attorneys for Republican lawmakers submitted a brief in response to these claims. The court has yet to rule on the viability of the remedial maps.
Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills
The maps below show which states are considering redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems legislation. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.
Register for tomorrow’s free briefing on upcoming redistricting
The official start of the 2020 Census is less than six months away—on April 1, 2020. Upon completion of the census, each state will draft and enact new district maps for the nation’s 435 congressional districts and 7,383 state legislative seats across 99 chambers.
We’re holding a free briefing tomorrow—on October 9 at 11 a.m. Central Time—to discuss how the census affects redistricting and recent news developments ahead of this important process. Among the topics the webinar will focus on are:
- The different methods each state employs to redraw legislative districts and how upcoming elections may affect them,
- Decisions by federal and state courts—including the U.S. Supreme Court—that have influenced current and future district boundaries.
- Where and how the adoption of independent redistricting commissions in certain states has affected the process.
Redistricting will be a prominent topic in the months and years ahead, so you won’t want to miss this interesting webinar about what’s ahead. Click the link below to reserve your spot, and if you can’t attend live, we’ll send you an email with a link to the recording after it’s happened.
Gubernatorial salaries ranged from $70,000 to $201,680 in 2018
The salary of federal officials like the president, vice president, and members of Congress are set by law. The salary of the president was established at $400,000 in 2001 and cannot be changed during a current president’s term in office. The salaries of other federal officials were established in 1989 by the Government Salary Reform Act, which provides for automatic annual increases tied to a cost of living index.
The salaries of state governors are typically determined by a state’s constitution or statute. In 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) had the highest salary of the 50 state governors. Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) was the lowest paid. The average gubernatorial salary across all states was $143,270 in 2018—a 2.4% increase over 2017—according to figures published in the Council of State Governments’ 2019 Book of States.
The five governors with the highest base salaries:
- California Governor Jerry Brown—$201,680
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—$200,000
- Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf—$194,850
- Tennessee Governor Bill Lee—$194,112
- Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker—$185,000
The five governors with the lowest base salaries:
- Maine Governor Paul LePage—$70,000
- Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper—$90,000
- Arizona Governor Doug Ducey—$95,500
- Oregon Governor Kate Brown—$98,600
- Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer—$99,636
In 17 states, gubernatorial salaries increased by, on average, $9,993, or 6.6%. Georgia had the largest salary increase of 25.6%. The salary of the governor in the remaining 33 states remained the same. In some states, gubernatorial salaries are automatically increased each year while in others, salary changes must be expressly passed by the state legislature.
Most often, the salary portion of a governor’s compensation is defined by law, but additional benefits, such as insurance, official residence, and other work-related equipment may be established by state agencies, customs, or other methods. For instance, 45 states subsidize the governor’s travel and 44 states have official gubernatorial residences.
47% of Brew readers have attended a school board meeting
Last week’s What’s the Tea? question was part of a series of questions we’re asking Brew readers in the weeks ahead as to whether they’ve ever participated or done certain things related to politics and policy, such as attending or speaking at governmental meetings or signing candidate or initiative petitions.
Ballotpedia covers school board elections in the 200 largest school districts by student enrollment and the school districts that overlap the 100 largest cities by population. In 2019, we’re covering elections for 542 school board seats in 188 school districts across 26 states. Collectively, these districts served 6,101,378 students during the 2016-2017 school year—approximately 11.7% of all public school students in the U.S.
We #SCOTUS, so you don’t have to
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 read more about the specific cases SCOTUS will hear this week:
- In Kahler v. Kansas, James Kahler was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. According to Oyez, Kansas law prohibits a jury from considering mental disorders as a criminal defense “insofar as it shows ‘that the defendant lacked the mental state required as an element of the offense charged.'”
On appeal, Kahler argued the prosecution violated his right to a fair trial. The Kansas Supreme Court rejected Kahler’s argument, affirming his conviction and sentence. Kahler appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing Kansas law violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments and the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process guarantee.
The issue: Do the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense?
- Peter v. NantKwest concerns whether applicants challenging a patent rejection under Section 145 of the U.S. Patent Act (35 U.S.C. § 145) must pay attorneys’ fees for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).
Section 145 authorizes an applicant to challenge the PTO’s rejection of a patent application in federal district court. The law stipulates, “All the expenses of the proceedings shall be paid by the applicant.”
The PTO rejected Dr. Hans Klingemann and NantKwest, Inc.’s, patent application. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the rejection. Klingemann challenged the rejection under 35 U.S.C. § 145 in federal district court. The district court and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the PTO’s patent rejection.
The PTO filed a motion for reimbursement of attorneys’ fees under § 145, which the district court denied. On appeal, a divided Federal Circuit panel reversed the district court’s judgment. Sitting en banc, the Federal Circuit then vacated the panel’s decision and affirmed the district court’s initial rejection of the motion for attorneys’ fees reimbursement.
The PTO appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the Federal Circuit’s en banc ruling “contravenes the ordinary meaning of ‘expenses’ and is inconsistent with Section 145’s history and purpose.”
The issue: Whether the phrase “[a]ll the expenses of the proceedings” in 35 U.S.C. 145 encompasses the personnel expenses the USPTO incurs when its employees, including attorneys, defend the agency in Section 145 litigation.
- In Ramos v. Louisiana, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on a 10 to 12 jury verdict. He appealed his conviction to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing his conviction by a non-unanimous jury violated his federal constitutional rights. The court of appeal affirmed Ramos’ conviction and sentence. The Louisiana Supreme Court denied review.
The issue: Whether the Fourteenth Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict?
- Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia is consolidated with Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda.
Gerald Bostock was an employee of Clayton County, Georgia. After his employment was terminated, Bostock sued the county for discrimination because of sexual orientation. Bostock argued his termination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The federal district court dismissed the case and, on appeal, the 11th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.
The issue: Whether discrimination against an employee because of sexual orientation constitutes prohibited employment discrimination “because of … sex” within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2.
- In R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC also concerns Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Aimee Stephens, an employee at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., was born biologically male. Stephens’ employment was terminated after she informed the funeral home’s owner that she would transition from male to female. Stephens filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which charged the funeral home with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court granted summary judgment to the funeral home. On appeal, the 6th Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and granted summary judgment to the EEOC.
The issue: Whether Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender people based on (1) their status as transgender or (2) sex stereotyping under Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.
Upcoming SCOTUS dates
Here are the upcoming dates of interest in October:
- October 7:
- SCOTUS will hear arguments in three cases.
- SCOTUS will release orders.
- October 8: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
- October 11: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
When does the U.S. Supreme Court’s yearly term begin?
- Always on October 1
- Always on October 7
- The first Monday in October
- Whenever the justices determine summer is over and decide to reconvene
Choose an answer to find out!
Federal court action
The Senate has confirmed six nominees since our September 9 issue.
- Steven Seeger, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. After he received his judicial commission, the court had:
- Three vacancies.
- Six Republican and 13 Democratic presidential appointees.
- Mary McElroy, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. After she received her judicial commission, the court had:
- No vacancies.
- Two Republican and one Democratic presidential appointees.
- Stephanie Gallagher, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. After she received her judicial commission, the court had:
- No vacancies.
- Two Republican and eight Democratic presidential appointees.
- Steven Grimberg, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. After he received his judicial commission, the court had:
- No vacancies.
- Five Republican and six Democratic presidential appointees.
- Ada Brown, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. After she received her judicial commission, the court had:
- No vacancies.
- Ten Republican and two Democratic presidential appointees.
- Stephanie Haines, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. After she received her judicial commission, the court had:
- Three vacancies.
- Five Republican and two Democratic presidential appointees.
The Senate has confirmed 152 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—105 district court judges, 43 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.
President Trump announced 23 new Article III nominees since our September 9 edition.
- Danielle Hunsaker of Oregon to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
- William Nardini of Connecticut to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
- Fernando Aenlle-Rocha of California to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
- Adam Braverman of California to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
- Silvia Carreno-Coll of Puerto Rico to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.
- John Gallagher of Pennsylvania to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
- Barbara Bailey Jongbloed of Connecticut to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
- Sandy Nunes Leal of California to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
- Shireen Matthews of California to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
- Rick Richmond of California to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
- Daniel Traynor of North Dakota to the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota.
- Cory Wilson of Mississippi to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.
- Barbara Lagoa of Florida to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
- Robert J. Luck of Florida to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
- Sherri Lydon of South Carolina to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
- Scott Rash of Arizona to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
- Todd Robinson of California to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
- Patrick Bumatay of California to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
- Lawrence VanDyke of Nevada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
- John Holcomb of California to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
- Knut Johnson of California to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
- Steve Kim of California to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
- Michelle Pettit of California to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California
The president has announced 222 Article III judicial nominations since taking office Jan. 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.
The federal judiciary currently has 107 vacancies. As of publication, there were 40 pending nominations.
According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, an additional 13 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.
The Senate Judiciary Committee did not report any new nominees out of committee since our September 9 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 in the spotlight
In each issue of Bold Justice, we highlight a federal court you should know more about. Right now, we’re taking a closer look at the 94 U.S. District Courts. The district courts are the general trial courts of the U.S. federal court system.
There is at least one judicial district for each state, and one each for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
In this edition, we’re placing a spotlight on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The Eastern District of New York has original jurisdiction over cases filed in the following counties in the eastern part of the state of New York.
- Kings County,
- Queens County,
- Richmond County,
- Nassau County, and
- Suffolk County.
Decisions of the court may be appealed to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Eastern District of New York has 15 authorized judgeships. There are currently five vacancies. The breakdown of current active judges by appointing president is:
- Barack Obama (D): Six judges
- George W. Bush (R): Four judges
Note: This story concerns a lawsuit following up on the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. The case that is the subject of this story has the same name but is distinct.
On September 20, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case involving the refund of agency fees paid to unions before the Supreme Court of the United States disallowed the compulsory collection of such fees in a 2018 ruling.
Who are the parties to the suit, and what is at issue? The plaintiff is Mark Janus, who was also the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME, the similarly named 2018 case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that compelling workers to pay fees to a union is an unconstitutional infringement of their free-speech and associational rights. The defendant is the American Federation of State, Court, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). In the present suit, Janus is seeking a refund of the fees he had been required to pay to AFSCME prior to the high court’s 2018 ruling. He points to Harris v. Quinn, a 2014 decision by the high court that struck down an Illinois statute compelling a specific class of home healthcare workers to pay fees to the Service Employees International Union. Janus claims that the high court’s ruling in Harris suggested the ultimate unconstitutionality of agency fees. He also argues that unions were not acting in good faith when they continued to collect agency fees and, therefore, should be held liable for refunds.
How did the lower court rule in this case? On March 18, Judge Robert Gettleman, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, ruled that public-sector unions cannot be required to refund agency fees paid to them before the Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus. Gettleman, who was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton, rejected the arguments put forth by Janus: “Defendants’ action [sic] were in accord with a constitutionally valid state statute. Nothing presented by plaintiff prevents application of that defense to defendant AFSCME. Defendant AFSCME followed the law and could not reasonably anticipate that the law would change.” Gettleman’s decision prompted the appeal that is presently being considered by the appellate panel.
What comes next? A decision is pending by the appellate panel, which comprises Judges Diane Wood, Daniel Manion, and Ilana Rovner. Wood, Marion, and Rovner were appointed by Presidents Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, respectively.
In other news
Earlier this week, we reported on Alaska’s newly announced opt-in membership policy for public-sector unions representing state employees. We now want to bring you up to speed on how public-sector unions in the state are reacting to the news.
Jake Metcalfe, president of the Alaska State Employees Association, which represents 4,930 members, told KTUU that the union would seek a temporary restraining order to bar enforcement of the September 26 order. On October 4, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller issued that order. Miller was appointed by Governor Sean Parnell, a Republican.
In response to this development, Metcalfe said, “Our position is the right position. The governor was trying to take rights away from his own employees and that’s never a good thing.”
Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills said, “We are disappointed with the ruling, though we will, of course, abide by the court’s order. The Attorney General continues to stand behind his opinion, and the state will continue to pursue the case to get final resolution on this important constitutional question.”
The big picture
Number of relevant bills by state
We are currently tracking 102 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.
Number of relevant bills by current legislative status
Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)
Recent legislative actions
No legislative actions have occurred since our last issue.