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Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for April 1

Bold Justice by Ballotpedia

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

April sitting

The Supreme Court will begin its April argument session next week, hearing cases remotely and streaming live argument audio to the public. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19.

The court will hear arguments in the following cases:

April 19

April 20

April 21

Grants

SCOTUS accepted two cases since our March 29 issue for a total of two hours of oral argument. Both cases originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The 6th Circuit holds jurisdiction over Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

The cases will be scheduled for argument during the court’s 2021-2022 October term, which begins on October 4, 2021. To date, the court has accepted 10 cases for the term. 

  • Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C. concerns whether a state official may intervene in a case to defend a state law that has been invalidated and Fourteenth Amendment protections of a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. 
  • Brown v. Davenport concerns the standard necessary to grant federal habeas relief to a person held in state custody. U.S. federal courts can use writs of habeas corpus to determine if a state’s detention of a prisoner is valid. 

Opinions

SCOTUS issued five opinions since our March 29 issue. The court has issued 26 opinions so far this term. Five cases were decided without argument.

March 29

  • Mays v. Hines (Decided without argument)
    • In an 8-1 per curiam ruling, the 6th Circuit ruling was reversed.

April 1

April 5

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • April 16: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • April 19:
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in three cases.
  • April 20: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases
  • April 21: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 23: SCOTUS will conference. 

SCOTUS trivia

Supreme Court justices are known for their landmark decisions and fashion choices of robes, collars, and jabots. During which court term did the Justices first start wearing robes?

  1. 1792
  2. 1912
  3. 1801
  4. 1799

Choose an answer to find out!

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 March 1 to April 1. 

Highlights

  • Vacancies: There have been five new judicial vacancies since the February 2021 report. There are 69 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, 73 of 890 active federal judicial positions were vacant at the time of the report.
  • Nominations: There have been 10 new nominations announced since the February 2021 report.
  • Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the February 2021 report.

Vacancy count for April 1, 2021

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

Five judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, the president nominates individuals to fill the vacancies. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of April 1, 2021.

New nominations

As of April 1, 2021, President Joe Biden (D) announced his intent to nominate 10 individuals to Article III judgeships. 

President Biden also announced his intent to nominate Rupa Ranga Puttagunta to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

The official nominations of these judges have not been submitted to the U.S. Senate as of this writing.

New confirmations

As of April 1, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

As of April 1 of the first year of President Donald Trump’s presidency, the U.S. Senate had not confirmed any Article III judicial nominees.

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, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Welcome to the ‘80s! There’s a new Hall & Oates album playing, the Lakers and Celtics just went into overtime, and everybody’s cutting footloose. But before we head to the mall (or back to the future), let’s take a look at President Ronald Reagan’s (R) judicial nominees from 1981 to 1989.


During his two terms in office, President Reagan had 402 judges successfully nominated and confirmed to the federal bench. Of those, 382 were to Article III judgeships. Among the most notable of these are Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Antonin Scalia. Reagan also nominated William Rehnquist to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. 

When President Reagan assumed office in January 1981, he inherited 34 life-term vacancies out of 660 total Article III judgeships (5.15%). Reagan inherited the second-lowest vacancy percentage of all presidents since 1981. President George H.W. Bush had a lower vacancy percentage when he assumed office, 4.89%. 

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–President Reagan appointed 83 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 290 judges to U.S. district courts, and six judges to the U.S. Court of International Trade

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on April 19 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

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



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 1, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): 
    • On April 2, outdoor amusement parks can reopen, and outdoor event venues can operate at 50% capacity or 10,000 individuals, whichever is fewer. Indoor stadiums will also be able to open at 10% capacity.
    • Residents age 16 and older are eligible to schedule vaccinations starting April 1. Residents 45 and older have been eligible for vaccination since March 19.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced the general outdoor gathering limit will expand from 50 to 200 people starting April 2. Large venues (like sports stadiums and concert halls) with seating capacity of 2,500 or greater will also be able to operate at 20% capacity indoors or 30% outdoors. Previously, only large venues capable of seating 5,000 or more people could operate at 10% capacity indoors or 15% outdoors. Indoor gatherings are still limited to 25 people.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Event, arts, and entertainment venues can reopen at 33% capacity (with a limit of 100 people indoors or 200 outdoors) starting April 2.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) announced all residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 6. Currently, all residents 50 and older are eligible. 
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, March 31, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) extended the COVID-19 public health state of emergency through April 30. Kemp also eased restrictions on businesses and individuals, effective April 7. Once the order takes effect, there will no longer be a ban on gatherings or any social distance requirements in businesses like bars, movie theaters, or gyms. Additionally, Kemp’s order prohibits law enforcement from closing businesses and organizations that do not comply with COVID-19 restrictions. 
  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced all residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 5. Currently, everyone 50 and older is eligible.
  • Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced a revised timeline for vaccine distribution. The state is aiming to open eligibility to everyone 50 and older April 1.
  • Minnesota (divided government): 
    • Starting April 1, seated indoor events (like concerts) of up to 3,000 people and unseated events of up to 1,500 people will be allowed.
    • On March 30, residents 16 and older became eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. 
  • Mississippi (Republican trifecta): Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued an executive order easing restrictions for certain events. Large events at indoor arenas can expand to 75% capacity, and K-12 extracurricular events can expand to 50% capacity indoors, with no limit on outdoor events.
  • Montana (Republican trifecta): Residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 1. Currently, the state is in Phase 1B+, which allows vaccinations for everyone 60 and older.
  • Nebraska (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, March 31, Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) announced that local health departments will have the option of expanding vaccine eligibility to residents 16 and older starting April 5. 
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam announced law enforcement officers, firefighters, grocery store workers, and food and agriculture workers were eligible for vaccination on March 31. All residents in Phase 1B (page 18) will be eligible April 5. All residents in Phase 1C (page 18) will be eligible April 12. Starting April 19, everyone 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination.
  • South Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, March 31, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) announced that residents 16 and older will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on Monday, April 5. 
  • Vermont (divided government): On Wednesday, March 31, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that out-of-state students and out-of-state homeowners will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on April 30. 
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Effective Thursday, April 1, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) eased some coronavirus restrictions. The limit on indoor social gatherings increased from 10 to 50 people, while the limit on outdoor gatherings increased from 25 to 100. Indoor and outdoor events at entertainment venues are limited to 30% capacity, although indoor events are prohibited from accommodating more than 500 people. Similarly, in-person graduations are limited to 30% capacity, with no more than 5,000 people at outdoor ceremonies or 500 people indoors.
    • On April 1, Northam announced residents 16 and older will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on April 18. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Wednesday, March 31, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that residents 16 and older will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on April 15. 
  • Wisconsin (divided government): On Tuesday, March 30, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced that residents 16 and older will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on April 5. 
  • Wyoming (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, March 31, Gov. Mark Gordon (R) announced that, effective immediately, residents 16 and older are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. 

School closures and reopenings

    Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2020-2021 academic year

Overview:

  • Two states (Del., Hawaii) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 403,664 students (0.80% of students nationwide)
  • Six states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.H., Texas, W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,635,661 students (19.05% of students nationwide)
  • Two states (Ariz., Ore.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 1,702,084 students (3.36% of students nationwide)
  • Forty states left decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 38,846,450 students (76.79% of students nationwide)

Details:

  • Oregon – Public elementary schools had to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. Parents could still keep their children in fully remote instruction.

Travel restrictions

    Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Since the start of the pandemic, governors or state agencies in 27 states and the District of Columbia issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 21 of those orders have been rescinded.
  • Since March 25, one state has ended its travel restrictions. 

Details:

  • New York – Effective April 1, out-of-state travelers and returning residents are no longer required to self-quarantine upon arrival or display a negative COVID-19 test. The New York State Department of Health recommends all travelers self-quarantine. Travelers are still required to fill out an online Traveler Health Form. 

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On March 28, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky extended a federal evictions moratorium through June 30. The moratorium was first put in place Sept. 4, 2020. 
  • On March 30, President Joe Biden (D) signed a bill extending the deadline to apply for a forgivable loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from March 31 to May 31. The bill also extended the authorization period for new loans through June 30. The bill passed the House 415-3 and passed the Senate 92-7.
  • On March 31, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized two at-home COVID-19 tests. Quidel Corporation and Abbott Laboratories developed the rapid tests, which are self-administered and deliver results within minutes.

Vaccine eligibility

Note: This section may not reflect the most recent stories in today’s The next 24 hours and Since our last edition sections above. This section details eligibility for different age groups in each state. 

We last looked at vaccine eligibility in our March 30 newsletter. As of March 31, at least one county in each state allowed vaccinations for the following age groups:

  • Ages 16+: 25 states
  • Ages 18+: Three states
  • Ages 30+: Two states
  • Ages 40+ or 45+: Two states 
  • Ages 50+ or 55+: Six states
  • Ages 60+ or 65+: 12 states and Washington, D.C.

For more details on vaccine distribution, including the eligibility of grocery store workers, food service employees, and people with underlying conditions, click here.

In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data above details the loosest restrictions in each state. For example, if one county in a state allows vaccines for anyone 55 or older, the state is marked as 55+, even if every other county limits vaccinations to people 65 or older. To see what states allow eligibility for groups in specific counties, check out the New York Times article here.

COVID-19 policy changes: Thursday, April 2, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Over the course of this week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Thursday, April 2, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Executive Order GA-14 went into effect. The order directed individuals in Texas to stay home except for essential activities and closed nonessential businesses in the state. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued the order March 31.
    • Executive Order 28 went into effect. The order directed individuals in Maine to stay at home. Gov. Janet Mills (D) issued the order March 31.
  • School closures:
    • Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced schools would remain closed through the end of the academic year.
    • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced schools statewide would remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
  • Election changes:
    • Judge William M. Conley of the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin issued an order extending absentee voting deadlines in Wisconsin’s April 7, 2020, election.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: March 26, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): Connecticut’s limit on early childhood class sizes will increase from 16 to 20 children on March 29. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) made the announcement on March 4.
  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): Residents age 60 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting March 29. Previously, people 65 and older were eligible to receive vaccines. 
  • Kentucky (divided government): Kentucky public schools must offer at least two days of in-person instruction each week starting March 29. The rule is the result of HB 208, which Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed on March 4. The bill passed 28-8 in the state Senate on March 3, and the House approved the Senate’s version 81-15 on March 4. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote learning.
  • Minnesota (divided government): On Friday, March 26, Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced that residents 16 and older will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on March 30. 
  • Missouri (Republican trifecta): All residents in Phase 2 (including construction workers, higher education faculty and staff, and homeless people) will be eligible for vaccinations starting March 29.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On March 29, vaccine eligibility will expand to include agriculture workers, warehouse employees, clergy, and elections personnel. To see a full list of eligible groups, click here.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): 
    • All counties can start vaccinating people in Phase 1B, Group 6, starting March 29. People in Phase 1B, Group 7, will be eligible for vaccinations starting April 19. On May 1, everyone age 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination.
    • Public elementary schools are required to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote instruction.
  • Vermont (divided government): On March 29, vaccine eligibility will expand to include people 50 and older. Previously, everyone 60 and older became eligible for vaccination on March 25.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Arizona (Republican trifecta): Gov. Doug Ducey (R) lifted restrictions on businesses and gatherings on March 25. All previous business restrictions are now recommendations. Businesses may enforce mask-wearing and social distancing, if they choose. Events larger than 50 people no longer need state approval. Ducey’s order also preempts the enforcement of local mask mandates, except in government buildings and on public transportation. Residents are still encouraged to wear masks. 
  • California (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced people 50 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 1. All residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 15.
  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jared Polis (D) extended the state’s dial reopening framework order through April 16. To read more about the dial’s metrics and restrictions, click here.
  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, March 25, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced that people 40 and older will be eligible for vaccination on Monday, March 29, while people 30 and older will be eligible Wednesday, March 31. People 16 and older will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine April 2.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Indoor family entertainment centers and amusement parks will be able to reopen at 25% capacity starting March 26.
    • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced new nursing home visitation guidelines, effective immediately. The guidance allows visits for all residents at all facilities. Previously, facilities had to be free of COVID-19 cases for 14 days before visits were permitted. To read the full guidance, click here.
  • North Carolina (divided government): 
    • Effective Friday, March 26, the limit on indoor gatherings will increase from 25 to 50 people, while the limit on outdoor gatherings will increase from 50 to 100 people. Retail stores, as well as museums and salons, will be allowed to operate at 100% capacity, while businesses like restaurants and gyms will be allowed to operate at 75% capacity indoors and 100% capacity outdoors. The new order will allow bars and movie theaters to operate at 50% capacity. Additionally, the order removes the alcohol curfew, which prohibits alcohol sales after 11 p.m. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) made the announcement Tuesday, March 23.
    • On Thursday, March 25, Cooper announced that the rest of Group 4 will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on March 31. Group 4 includes a range of essential workers, some of whom were eligible March 17. Cooper also announced that all North Carolina adults will be eligible April 7. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, March 25, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) ordered all K-12 schools to follow updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distance guidance, which says students should keep three feet apart. 
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, March 24, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that all live music performances will be allowed to resume Friday, March 26, and that summer camps will be allowed to reopen May 1. Justice also announced that the state’s color-coded County Alert System will no longer be used to determine if high schools can reopen for in-person instruction. High schools will join all other schools in offering full-time, in-person instruction unless there is a COVID-19 active outbreak. 

This time last year: Friday, March 27, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Over the course of this week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Friday, March 27, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • On March 25, Gov. Tim Walz (D) issued a stay-at-home order, which directed individuals in the state to remain at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses. The order took effect March 27.
  • Travel restrictions
    • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) issued an executive order requiring people traveling to South Carolina from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and New Orleans to self-quarantine for two weeks. 
    • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed an executive order requiring all travelers who entered New Mexico through an airport to self-quarantine for 14 days. 
  • School closures:
    • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the statewide school closure from April 1 to April 15.
    • Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) extended the statewide school closure from April 3 to April 17.
  • Election changes:
    • Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) signed into law legislation postponing the state’s primary election from April 28, 2020, to June 2, 2020.
  • Federal government responses:
    • President Donald Trump (R) signed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law.


Bold Justice: SCOTUS begins March sitting

Bold Justice by Ballotpedia

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Court announcements

On March 5, the court’s Public Information Office announced that all of the justices had been fully vaccinated. 

On March 19, the court held its first in-person conference since last spring. Some of the justices participated remotely.

March sitting

The Supreme Court begins its March sitting the week of March 22 via teleconference and will provide audio livestreams of the argument sessions. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19. SCOTUS will hear arguments in seven cases for a total of six hours of oral argument. 

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases before SCOTUS during the first week of its March sitting.

March 22

California state law allows union organizers access to employees at worksites under limited circumstances. This is known as the Agricultural Labor Relations Act’s (ALRA) access regulation. The Agricultural Labor Relations Board presides over its enforcement. 

In 2015, organizers from the United Farm Workers (UFW) union tried to gain access to two corporations’ worksites–Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company, collectively known as “The Growers”–and later filed complaints against The Growers, citing unfair labor practices and blocking the organizers’ access to the workers. 

In 2016, The Growers filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the Board, seeking to bar enforcement of the access regulation on their worksites and challenging the regulation’s constitutionality. The district court denied the request and dismissed the complaint. On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed, or upheld the district court’s ruling.

The questions presented: “Whether the uncompensated appropriation of an easement that is limited in time [is effectively] a per se physical taking under the Fifth Amendment.”

March 23

In 2016, Crow Tribe of Montana Officer James Saylor detained Joshua Cooley and searched Cooley’s vehicle, which was pulled over in Indian Country on U.S. Route 212. Saylor confiscated several firearms and observed equipment appearing to contain methamphetamine. 

Cooley was arrested and indicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. The district court granted Cooley’s motion to suppress evidence from Saylor’s search, ruling that Saylor conducted an “unreasonable search and seizure” under the Indian Civil Rights Act. The U.S. government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The court affirmed the district court’s ruling. 

The questions presented: Were the lower courts wrong to suppress evidence on the theory that an Indian tribe police officer was unauthorized to detain and search a non-Indian based on a potential violation of state or federal law while on a public right-of-way in an Indian reservation?

March 24

In 2015, Edward Caniglia and his wife argued at their home in Cranston, Rhode Island. During the argument, Caniglia retrieved an unloaded gun from their bedroom. Mrs. Caniglia spent the night at a nearby hotel. The next day, Mrs. Caniglia called the police to request a wellness check on her husband and an escort home.

At the home, the sergeant determined Caniglia was imminently dangerous to himself and others. The police requested Caniglia go to a nearby hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Caniglia complied, later alleging he did so based on a police promise that his guns would not be confiscated. The sergeant seized firearms and ammunition from the home. 

Later, Caniglia made several attempts to retrieve his firearms from the police department. His requests were denied. Caniglia filed suit in district court against the police department and city officials, alleging violations of his rights under the U.S. Constitution and state law. The firearms were returned to Caniglia. The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island granted the defense’s motion for summary judgment on Caniglia’s legal claims and held that the police officers’ seizures were protected under the Fourth Amendment’s community caretaking exception. On appeal, the 1st Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling. 

The question presented: “Whether the ‘community caretaking’ exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement extends to the home.”

April sitting

On March 12, SCOTUS released its April calendar. The court will hear 12 hours of oral argument in 14 cases between April 19 and April 28. The court will hear arguments remotely and provide live audio streams to the public. To date, all arguments have been conducted remotely this term.

To date, all but one of the cases accepted for argument during this term have been scheduled. Six cases were removed from the argument calendar. One case, Terry v. United States, will be rescheduled later in the term. The court has agreed to hear 63 cases in total during its October 2020-2021 term.

In its 2019-2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 61 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

The following list of cases is organized by scheduled argument date:

April 19, 2021

April 20, 2021

April 21, 2021

April 26, 2021

April 27, 2021

April 28, 2021

Opinions

SCOTUS issued one opinion since our March 8 issue. The court has issued 19 opinions so far this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

On March 8, the court issued an opinion in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski which concerned nominal damages claims and whether they provide legal standing in federal cases. Nominal damages claims are when a judge finds in favor of one party in a lawsuit but concludes that no real harm was done and awards a very small, or nominal, amount of monetary relief.

The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and was argued before SCOTUS on January 12, 2021. So far, the court has accepted four cases from the 11th Circuit and has decided one during this term.

In an 8-1 ruling, the court held that awarding nominal damages provides legal standing in a case, meaning that the plaintiff has the legal right to sue. Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the majority opinion of the court and Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion. Justice Thomas has authored three majority opinions during the current term.

Chief Justice John Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, concluding that nominal damages claims are not a sufficient basis for Article III legal standing in a case. This was Roberts’ first dissenting opinion in a case argued during the 2020-2021 term as well as his first lone, or solitary, dissent since joining the court in 2005. 

Grants

SCOTUS accepted one case since our March 8 issue, to be scheduled for argument during the upcoming October 2021-2022 term. The court has granted review in a total of eight cases for the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

Thompson v. Clark concerns the Supreme Court’s favorable termination rule for plaintiffs suing for unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment and burden of proof requirements in cases of unlawful warrantless entry under the Fourth Amendment. Thompson originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The favorable termination rule was established in the 1994 case Heck v. Humphrey to prevent a plaintiff’s civil claims potentially undermining the validity of the plaintiff’s criminal conviction. The Supreme Court held that the plaintiff’s criminal proceeding must end in a favorable termination to the plaintiff in order for a suit to proceed. 

Following that decision, circuit courts have differed on the definition of “favorable termination.”. Some circuits hold that plaintiffs must clearly be found innocent—a higher standard—while others hold that the judgment simply must not be inconsistent with the plaintiff’s innocence. 

The questions presented in Thompson v. Clark are:

  1. “Whether the rule that a plaintiff must await favorable termination before bringing a Section 1983 action alleging unreasonable seizure pursuant to legal process requires the plaintiff to show that the criminal proceeding against him has ‘formally ended in a manner not inconsistent with his innocence,’ Laskar v. Hurd, 972 F.3d 1278, 1293 (11th Cir. 2020), or that the proceeding ‘ended in a manner that affirmatively indicates his innocence,’ Lanning v. City of Glens Falls, 908 F.3d 19, 22 (2d Cir. 2018); see also Laskar, 972 F.3d at 1293 (acknowledging 7-1 circuit conflict).
  2. “Where a Section 1983 plaintiff brings a Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful warrantless entry of his home and the government pursues a justification of exigent circumstances, does the government have the burden to prove exigency existed (as the Third, Sixth, Ninth and Tenth Circuits have held), or does the plaintiff have to prove its non-existence (as the Second, Seventh and Eighth Circuits have held).”

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • March 22:
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 23: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 24: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 26: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

SCOTUS trivia

SCOTUS is scheduled to begin its next term on October 4, 2021. Which of the following start dates have been used during previous SCOTUS terms? 

a) The first Monday in October

b) The first Monday in February

c) The second Monday in October

d) All of the above

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Nominations and confirmations

President Biden announced no new nominees and the U.S. Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our March 8 issue.

President Biden has not yet made any federal judicial nominations during his term. 

In comparison to previous presidential administrations, Presidents Donald Trump (R) and George H.W. Bush (R) made their first Article III judicial appointments by June 1 of the first year of their presidencies. Presidents George W. Bush (R) and Ronald Reagan (R) made their first appointments by August 1, and Presidents Barack Obama (D) and Bill Clinton (D) made their first Article III judicial appointments by October 1 of their first years in office. These figures do not include appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 72 vacancies. As of publication, there were no pending nominations.

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

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, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Welcome to the ‘90s! This edition of Bold Justice takes us back to a time when the Chicago Bulls were a reigning dynasty on the basketball court, when we caught our first Pokémon, and when we realized that our hearts would go on. Today, we’re taking a look at President Bill Clinton’s (D) judicial nominees.


During his term of office, President Clinton made 387 successful judicial appointments where the nominee joined the court. Of those appointments, 378 were Article III judges. Among the most notable of these are Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

When President Clinton assumed office in January 1993, he inherited 111 life-term vacancies out of 842 total Article III judgeships (13.18%), the highest vacancy percentage since the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan (R) in January 1981. 

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–Clinton appointed 66 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 305 judges to U.S. district courts, and five judges to the U.S. Court of International Trade

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on March 29 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

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



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: March 18, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): People in Phase 1B4 of vaccine distribution can get vaccinated starting March 19. The phase includes all residents 50 and older. Frontline restaurant, manufacturing, and local and state government workers will also become eligible regardless of age.
  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Some restrictions will be lifted on March 19. Restaurants, offices, places of worship, and personal care service businesses will be able to operate at full capacity. Social gatherings at private residences can expand to 25 people indoors or 100 outdoors. Social gatherings at commercial venues can expand to 100 people indoors or 200 outdoors. All school sports practices and competitions will be allowed. Connecticut’s out-of-state travel requirements will become recommendations.
    • Residents aged 45 to 54 are eligible for vaccination starting March 19. Currently, residents 55 and older can get vaccines.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Thursday, March 18, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced the state would advance to Phase IV of the reopening plan on March 22. Under Phase IV, large capacity sports and entertainment venues can operate at 12% capacity if they submit a plan to the Department of Public Health. Additionally, the gathering limit for event venues in public settings will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors, and dance floors will be permitted at weddings. Baker also announced the state’s requirement that travelers quarantine for 10 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test will become an advisory. 
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Businesses like restaurants, bars, personal care service providers (such as salons and barbershops), and state-defined indoor recreation businesses (like casinos, gyms, and others) can expand from 35% to 50% capacity starting March 19. On the same day, the indoor gathering limit will expand from 10 to 25 people. Outdoor gatherings can expand from 25 to 50 people.
    • Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order allowing outdoor interstate youth sports competitions to resume, effective 6:00 a.m. March 19.
    • Murphy extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until April 16.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Restaurants outside of New York City can expand indoor dining from 50% to 75% capacity starting March 19. Restaurants in New York City will remain at 35% capacity.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Wednesday, March 17, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced that people 16 and older with pre-existing conditions, including cancer and lung disease, will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine March 22. Sisolak said eligibility will expand to anyone 16 and older on April 5. 
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): Residents in Phase 1E and 2C of the state’s vaccination plan are eligible for vaccination starting March 19. Phase 1E includes residents with underlying health conditions, such as cancer and heart disease. Phase 2C includes all residents 40 and older. 
  • Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): Starting March 19, indoor dining capacity will increase from 66% to 75%. Indoor attendance limits at catered events (like wedding receptions) will increase from 30 to 100 people, with the maximum capacity limit increasing from 50% to 75%. Outdoor catered event attendance limits will increase from 100 to 200 people. Social gatherings of 15 people indoors or 50 people outdoors will be permitted. Previously, social gatherings were capped at two households indoors or three outdoors. Places of worship can operate at 75% capacity, up from the current 40% limit. Retailers, personal care service providers, gyms, and other businesses can also increase capacity. For a full list of changes, click here.
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, March 18, Gov. Spencer Cox (R) announced that residents 60 and over will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on March 24. 
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Wednesday, March 17, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) released preliminary guidance that would allow K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to hold in-person ceremonies. The rules would allow outdoor ceremonies to accommodate up to 5,000 people or 30% of the venue’s capacity, whichever is less. Indoor ceremonies would be limited to 500 people or 30% capacity. Northam said he expects to include the guidance in an April 1 executive order. 

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

School closures and reopenings

    Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2020-2021 academic year

Overview:

  • Three states (Calif., Del., Hawaii) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 6,712,802 students (13.27% of students nationwide)
  • Five states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.H., Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,361,806 students (18.51% of students nationwide)
  • Two states (Ariz., W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 1,396,992 students (2.76% of students nationwide)
  • Forty states left decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 33,116,259 students (65.46% of students nationwide)

Details:

  • Arizona – Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R) executive order requiring public schools to offer in-person instruction took effect March 15. High schools and middle schools in high-transmission counties are exempt from the order. Parents can still keep their children in virtual classes.
  • Oregon – Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an executive order requiring public elementary schools to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. The order also requires public schools to open for grades 6-12 by April 19. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote instruction.

Travel restrictions

    Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Since the start of the pandemic, governors or state agencies in 27 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 18 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since March 11, one state has ended its travel restrictions. Two states announced changes to their travel restrictions. 

Details:

  • Maryland – On March 12, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ended the requirement that out-of-state travelers and returning residents self-quarantine or test negative.
  • Kansas – On March 12, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment updated its travel quarantine list to include travelers from New York and New Jersey. People coming from those states must quarantine for up to 14 days if symptoms are detected. Travelers who do not develop symptoms can get a test on day six and end the quarantine if the test is negative. Travelers who do not get a test and do not develop symptoms can end quarantine after 10 days. 
  • Massachusetts – On March 18, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced he would end the requirement that travelers quarantine for 10 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival in the state on Monday, March 22. 

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Tuesday, March 16, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a template COVID-19 test developers can use to streamline the process of getting an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The template is intended for developers working on serial testing programs, which involve testing the same individual multiple times within a few days to detect asymptomatic cases a single test might miss.
  • On Wednesday, March 17, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would devote $10 billion of the American Rescue Act of 2021, which President Biden (D) signed March 11, to COVID-19 testing to help schools reopen. The money will fund diagnostic tests to detect symptomatic and asymptomatic teachers, staff, and students.

Vaccine eligibility

Note: This section may not reflect the most recent stories in today’s The next 24 hours and Since our last edition sections above. This section details eligibility for different age groups in each state. 

We last looked at vaccine eligibility in our March 16 newsletter. As of March 17, at least one county in each state allowed vaccinations for the following age groups:

  • Four states allowed vaccinations for anyone 16+
  • One state allowed vaccinations for anyone 45+
  • 11 states allowed vaccinations for anyone 50+ or 55+
  • 33 states and Washington, D.C., allowed vaccinations for anyone 60+ or 65+
  • One state allowed vaccinations for anyone 75+

For more details on vaccine distribution, including the eligibility of grocery store workers, food service employees, and people with underlying conditions, click here.

In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data above details the loosest restrictions in each state. For example, if one county in a state allows vaccines for anyone 55 or older, the state is marked as 55+, even if every other county limits vaccinations to people 65 or older. To see what states allow eligibility for groups in specific counties, check out the New York Times article here.



South Dakota legislature adopts bill barring public agencies from collecting, releasing information about nonprofit donors

South Dakota legislature adopts bill barring public agencies from collecting, releasing information about nonprofit donors    

On March 8, the South Dakota state Senate approved a bill that would bar public agencies from requiring individuals or groups to disclose identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors, clearing the way for Gov. Kristi Noem (R) to sign it into law. 

What the bill does

SB103 would bar any public agency (including state and municipal government units and courts) from:

  • Requiring a tax-exempt nonprofit to provide a public agency with “personal affiliation information,” defined as “any list, record, register, registry, roll, roster, or other compilation of any kind that directly or indirectly identifies a natural person as a member, supporter, volunteer, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to any nonprofit corporation.” 
  • Publicly disclosing any such information a public agency may already possess. 
  • Requiring a current or prospective contractor to provide a public agency with a list of the nonprofits “to which it has provided financial or nonfinancial support.” 

The legislation does not bar public agencies from furnishing personal information about a nonprofit’s donors, supporters, etc., for:

  • Campaign finance reporting requirements.
  • A lawful warrant for personal affiliation information.
  • A lawful request for discovery of personal affiliation information in litigation, if the requestor “demonstrates a compelling need” for the information and “obtains a protective order barring disclosure” of information to anyone not named in the litigation.
  • A sales or use tax audit of a nonprofit by the Department of Revenue.
  • An audit, examination, or investigation of a nonprofit corporation conducted under state law.

Other states considering similar legislation: Iowa (HF309, HSB28, and SSB1036), Nebraska (LB370), and Tennessee (HB0159 and SB1608). All three states are Republican trifectas. 

Legislative history   

Sens. Casey Crabtree and James Bolin and Reps. Kirk Chaffee, Tim Goodwin, and Tim Reed – all Republicans – introduced SB103 on Jan. 26. On Feb. 17, the state Senate approved the bill, sending it to the South Dakota House of Representatives. On March 3, the House approved an amended version of the bill 55-13, with 55 Republicans voting in favor and eight Democrats and five Republicans voting against it. The Senate unanimously agreed to the amendments on March 8. Noem is expected to sign SB103 into law.

Political context: South Dakota is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. South Dakota has been a Republican trifecta since 1995.

Other relevant legislation in South Dakota

HB1079, signed into law on March 3, prohibits any executive branch entity (e.g., the governor, the secretary of state, etc.) from requiring “any annual filing or reporting of a nonprofit corporation or charitable trust that is more stringent, restrictive, or expansive than that required by state or federal law.” It does not apply to information required “to determine eligibility for or compliance with a state grant or contract.” The bill also exempts information required for, or obtained during, a state fraud investigation or enforcement action.

Reactions

Mark Miller, an attorney for Noem, said the following in support of HB1079: “What is this bill about? It’s really about the American way of life. … It’s also meant to return us to the traditional role of anonymity in support for certain causes that one believes in.” 

Rep. Ryan Cwach (D), who voted against both SB103 and HB1079, said, “We expect accountability and we expect transparency from our government, and so the idea that we want to try and keep how people are influencing our government anonymous goes against the whole bedrock of our society.”

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 34 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. 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

For complete information on all of the bills we are tracking, click here

  • California AB236: This bill would require campaign finance committees to report the name of “each individual who owns or controls, or controls the contributions and expenditures of, a limited liability company or a foreign limited liability company from which the committee received a campaign contribution.”
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Re-referred to the Assembly Elections Committee on March 11.
  • Idaho H0245: This bill would prohibit foreign contributions, independent expenditures, and electioneering in Idaho election campaigns.
    • Sponsorship not specified.
    • The House approved the bill on March 9. It was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee on March 10.
  • Montana SB162: This bill would redefine “electioneering communication” to exempt any “communication by a religious organization exempt from federal income tax when compliance with [state campaign finance laws] would burden the organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practice.”
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • House State Administration Committee hearing scheduled for March 16.
  • Nebraska LB370: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for March 11.
  • Pennsylvania HB852: This bill would require a nonprofit that expects to make contributions or expenditures of $25,000 or more in a calendar year to a political committee or campaign to file a statement of organization with the Department of State. The nonprofit would also be required to file a report of the source of the 10 largest cumulative payments of $10,000 or more it received in the current calendar year from a single person.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship.
    • Introduced and referred to the House State Government Committee on March 10.
  • Rhode Island S0620: This bill would revise the definition of a “business entity” under the state’s campaign finance laws to include nonprofits.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 11.
  • South Dakota SB103: This bill would prohibit public agencies from requiring any person or nonprofit to provide identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors. It would also prohibit the disclosure of any such information currently in a public agency’s possession.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Delivered to the governor on March 11.
  • Tennessee HB0159: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • House Civil Justice Subcommittee hearing scheduled for March 16.
  • Tennessee SB1608: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Senate State and Local Government Committee hearing scheduled for March 16.
  • West Virginia HB2932: This bill would prohibit a state agency from imposing additional requirements beyond those already existing on the registration, reporting or operation of a charitable organization.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • The House approved the bill on March 12 and referred it to the Senate.

Thank you for reading! Let us know what you think! Reply to this email with any feedback or recommendations. 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: March 15, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Alabama (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced residents age 55 or older and people ages 16-64 with state-defined high-risk underlying conditions will be eligible for vaccination starting March 22.
  • Arizona (Republican trifecta): Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R) executive order requiring public schools to offer in-person instruction takes effect March 15. High schools and middle schools in high-transmission counties are exempt from the order. Parents can still keep their children in virtual classes.
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): 
    • People 55 and older became eligible for a coronavirus vaccine on March 15. People age 16 and older with high-risk medical conditions, including cancer and diabetes, also became eligible.
    • On Friday, March 12, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) extended statewide coronavirus restrictions and guidance through March 31. The new order included some modifications, such as combining restaurant and bar requirements to hold both to the same COVID-19 cleaning and mitigation standards. 
  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): Everyone in Phase 1-C of vaccine distribution is eligible for vaccination starting March 15, including anyone age 65 and older, essential workers, and people with state-defined, high-risk underlying conditions. Currently, people 70 and older are eligible. 
  • Kentucky (divided government): Individuals age 16 and older with health conditions the Centers for Disease Control says increase risk for severe illness from the coronavirus are eligible for vaccination starting March 15. Vaccinators must continue to prioritize appointments for people over 60. 
  • Minnesota (divided government): 
    • Looser mitigation restrictions are effective March 15 at 12 p.m. Bars and restaurants can expand operations from 50% to 75% of indoor capacity. Indoor social gatherings can expand from 10 people from two households to up to 15 people with no household limit. Outdoor gatherings can expand from 15 people from three households to 50 people with no household limit. 
    • Starting April 1, seated indoor events (like concerts) of up to 3,000 people and unseated events of up to 1,500 people will be allowed.  
  • Michigan (divided government): On Friday, March 12, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced that residents 16 and older with medical conditions or disabilities will become eligible for a coronavirus vaccine on March 22. All residents 16 and older will become eligible April 5. 
  • Missouri (Republican trifecta): Individuals in Phase 1B – Tier 3 are eligible for vaccinations starting March 15. The phase includes school employees, grocery store workers, and critical infrastructure workers (including people in the energy, food, and agriculture sectors).
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, March 12, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced that effective Monday, March 15, large venues can host events at up to 50% capacity with approval from the Department of Business and Industry. Previously, large gatherings and events were limited to 20% capacity at venues with more than 2,500 seats. Conventions, conferences, and trade shows were limited to 1,000 people. 
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): School staff and homeless people are among those eligible for vaccination starting March 15. On March 29, eligibility will expand to include agriculture workers, warehouse employees, clergy, and elections personnel. To see full lists of eligible groups for each date, click here.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Wedding receptions and other catered events can resume March 15. Venues are restricted to the lesser of 50% capacity or 150 people. Previously, weddings were capped at 50 people, and indoor dining service was not permitted at receptions.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an executive order requiring public elementary schools to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. The order also requires public schools to open for grades 6-12 by April 19. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote instruction.
  • Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): 
    • On March 12, Gov. Dan McKee (D) announced restaurants can move indoor dining tables from eight feet apart to six feet, effective immediately. Bar areas can also seat patrons until 12 a.m. (previously, patrons had to leave at 11 p.m.). 
    • Starting March 19, indoor dining capacity will increase from 66% to 75%. Indoor attendance limits at catered events (like wedding receptions) will increase from 30 to 100 people, with the maximum capacity limit increasing from 50% to 75%. Outdoor catered event attendance limits will increase from 100 to 200 people. Social gatherings of 15 people indoors or 50 people outdoors will be permitted. Previously, social gatherings were capped at two households indoors or three outdoors. Places of worship can operate at 75% capacity, up from the current 40% limit. Retailers, personal care service providers, gyms, and other businesses can also increase capacity. For a full list of changes, click here.
    • All residents 60 and older and residents 16 or older with an underlying medical condition (including lung disease, heart disease, and diabetes) became eligible for vaccination on March 12. 
  • Vermont (divided government): 
    • People aged 16 and older with underlying health conditions can receive vaccines starting March 15. 
    • On Friday, March 12, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced up to two unvaccinated households can gather at a time. Restaurants are also permitted to seat multiple households together, with a limit of six people at the same table. 
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Ralph Northam (D) requested that schools provide in-person instruction options for students by March 15. Northam said schools could consult the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Education’s updated reopening guidance released on Jan. 15 as they prepare to return students to the classroom. Although the request is not a mandate, Northam said he expects schools to comply.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, March 12, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said he would soon issue an emergency proclamation requiring elementary schools to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5. Schools must provide older students the same by April 19. As of March 15, Inslee had not signed the proclamation.  
  • Wisconsin (divided government): On Friday, March 12, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced that everyone 16 and older would be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine on May 1.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: March 11, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Maryland (divided government): Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will end capacity limits on most types of businesses, including restaurants, bars, and fitness centers, on March 12 at 5 p.m. Large outdoor and indoor venues, including wedding and sports venues and theaters, will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Additionally, Hogan said he will end the state’s quarantine requirements for out-of-state travelers and allow adult daycare centers to reopen. The statewide mask mandate will remain in effect.
  • Oklahoma (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, March 11, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced he would ease coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings and indoor sporting events on Friday, March 12. Stitt also said he would end a requirement that people wear masks in state buildings. 
  • Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Dan McKee (D) announced school staff and childcare workers will be eligible for vaccination starting March 12. Previously, Rhode Island prioritized individuals based on age and underlying conditions.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Florida (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, March 10, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) banned counties and municipalities from fining people or businesses for violating COVID-19 restrictions. The order also rebates any fines imposed on people or businesses for violations retroactive to March 2020. 
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, March 10, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced that people 55 and older will become eligible for a coronavirus vaccine on March 15. People age 16 and older with high-risk medical conditions, including cancer and diabetes, will also become eligible. 
  • Massachusetts (divided government): K-12 teachers and staff are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine starting Thursday, March 11.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced businesses like restaurants, bars, personal care service providers (like salons and barbershops), and state-defined indoor recreation businesses (like casinos and gyms) can expand from 35% to 50% capacity starting March 19. On the same day, the indoor gathering limit will expand from 10 to 25 people. Outdoor gatherings can expand from 25 to 50 people. 
  • New Mexico (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced one county will have Red Level restrictions, 18 will be Yellow, seven will be Green, and seven will be Turquoise for the two-week period starting March 10. In the previous period, four counties were Red Level, 19 were Yellow, six were Green, and four were Turquoise.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced domestic travelers will not have to quarantine when arriving from out-of-state starting April 1. All travelers will still have to fill out the Traveler Health Form before arriving in the state. Currently, individuals must have two negative COVID-19 test results to avoid the 14-day quarantine requirement. The first test must be from within three days before arriving in the state. Travelers must quarantine for three days and then take the second test on the fourth day. If both tests come back negative, the visitors can end quarantine. 
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): 
    • People 50 and older are eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting March 11. People with Type 2 Diabetes and end-stage renal disease will also become eligible on that day.
    • On Wednesday, March 10, the Ohio House of Representatives voted 57-35 to pass Senate Bill 22, which would give lawmakers the authority to cancel a governor’s health order that lasts longer than 30 days. The bill would also require the governor to renew the health orders every 60 days. The Senate approved the bill 25-8 on Wednesday. It goes to Gov. Mike DeWine (R).  
  • Texas (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, March 10, the Department of State Health Services announced that residents 50 and older will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on March 15. 
  • Vermont (divided government): People 16 and older with underlying health conditions, including cancer and chronic kidney disease, are now eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. 

School closures and reopenings

    Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2020-2021 academic year

Overview:

  • Four states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.M.) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 7,049,065 students (13.93% of students nationwide)
  • Five states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.H., Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,361,806 students (18.51% of students nationwide)
  • One state (W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 273,855 students (0.54% of students nationwide)
  • Forty states left decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 33,903,133 students (67.02% of students nationwide)

Details:

  • Arizona – On March 3, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) issued an executive order requiring public schools to offer in-person instruction by March 15. High schools and middle schools in high-transmission counties will be exempt from the order. Parents will still be able to keep their children in virtual classes.
  • Kentucky – On March 4, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed HB 208, requiring public schools to offer at least two days of in-person instruction each week starting March 29. The Senate approved the bill 28-8 on March 3. The House voted 81-15 in favor of the Senate’s version on March 4. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote learning.
  • New Hampshire – Schools were required to begin providing at least two days of classroom instruction each week on March 8. Schools can switch to fully remote instruction for up to 48 hours without state approval. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued the requirement in a Feb. 19 order. 
  • North Carolina (divided government): On Wednesday, March 10, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced an agreement with legislators that would return all elementary schools to in-person instruction, while middle and high schools will be permitted to choose between a hybrid approach and in-person instruction on a district-by-district basis. Parents would still be able to keep their kids in virtual classes. The plan will take effect 21 days after Cooper signs the bill.  
  • Oregon – On March 5, Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced she would issue an executive order requiring public elementary schools to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. Brown said the order will require public schools to open for grades 6-12 by April 19. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote instruction.

Travel restrictions

    Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Since the start of the pandemic, governors or state agencies in 27 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 17 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since March 4, two states have amended their travel restrictions. Two states announced changes to their travel restrictions.   

Details:

  • Maine – As part of a reopening plan for the spring and summer tourism season, Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced on March 5 that travelers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island would no longer need to quarantine upon arrival in the state. Mills also said the mandatory travel restrictions would become recommendations on May 1.
  • Massachusetts – On March 8, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health included fully vaccinated individuals to its list of out-of-state travelers who are exempt from the quarantine requirement. People who have been fully vaccinated for 14 days do not need to quarantine for 10 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result.
  • Maryland – On March 9, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced he would ease some coronavirus restrictions beginning March 12 at 5 p.m., including the quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers.
  • New York – On March 11, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced domestic travelers will not have to quarantine when arriving from out-of-state starting April 1. All travelers will still have to fill out the Traveler Health Form before arriving in the state. 

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On March 6, the U.S. Senate voted 50-49 along party lines to pass the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The $1.9 trillion dollar package includes $1,400 relief checks for eligible individuals, an extension of unemployment benefits, economic relief to state and local governments, and funding for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Unlike the House version, the Senate bill did not include a minimum wage increase. The Senate bill also lowered the income eligibility threshold for relief checks.
  • On March 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidance that says it is safe for fully vaccinated individuals to gather indoors with other fully vaccinated individuals without wearing a mask. The CDC classifies people as fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving either the second dose of a two-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the first dose of a single-dose vaccine, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC also says that vaccinated individuals can gather indoors with unvaccinated individuals from one other household if no one in the household is at a heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
  • On March 10, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 220-211 to approve the Senate version of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. One Democrat joined with all Republicans to vote against the bill. The bill goes to President Joe Biden (D), who is expected to sign it today.


The Daily Brew: Coming up on one year since the first stay-at-home order

Welcome to the Thursday, March 11, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Coming up on one year since the first stay-at-home order
  2. Twelve states sue Biden administration over emissions executive order
  3. Chief Justice Roberts was the lone dissenter for the first time

Coming up on one year since the first stay-at-home order

On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in response to COVID-19. Six days later, on March 19, 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued the nation’s first stay-at-home order. Let’s take a look back at the orders and how those first few weeks played out last year.

Although the specifics of each stay-at-home order varied from state to state, they all closed certain categories of businesses and required people to stay home unless doing activities designated as essential, such as grocery shopping or working in essential businesses.

In the three weeks that followed Newsom’s order, 42 additional governors issued stay-at-home orders. South Carolina was the last state to issue an order—on April 7, 2020. All states with Democratic governors at that time (24) issued stay-at-home orders in their states, while 19 of the 26 Republican governors did so.

Seven states—Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming—did not issue stay-at-home orders

We broke down the duration of stay-at-home orders by trifecta status. As a reminder, a party has trifecta control of state government when it holds the governor’s office and majorities in both chambers of the legislature. 

Here is the median duration of coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders by trifecta status:

  • States with Republican trifectas: 31.0 days
  • States with Democratic trifectas: 68.0 days 
  • States with divided government: 52.5 days 

Alaska was the first state to end its stay-at-home order on April 24, and Montana and Colorado did the same on April 26. By June 29, Ballotpedia’s COVID-19 news team classified all but two stay-at-home orders as expired.

We considered California’s stay-at-home order as active until Dec. 3, 2020, because Newsom’s original executive order did not have an expiration date, and it was not explicitly rescinded. Newsom issued regional stay-at-home orders on Dec. 3. We classified New Mexico’s stay-at-home order as active through Nov. 30 because the state’s health department said since March 2020 that “all New Mexicans should be staying in their homes for all but the most essential activities and services.”

While stay-at-home orders have expired in all states, debate and legislative action over gubernatorial emergency powers continue this year. For example:

  • As I wrote in February, the Pennsylvania Legislature approved a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment that would end emergency disaster declarations after 21 days unless the General Assembly approved extensions. If voters approve the amendment on May 18, the legislature could end the state’s coronavirus emergency order, including the mask requirement.
  • On March 1, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill 109-3 that would give the legislature more oversight over governors’ executive orders. The bill would allow the legislature to review executive orders and extend, amend, or end them after 30 days. The state Senate has not yet considered the bill. Gov. Henry McMaster said he supports the legislation. 

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking back at milestones in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that happened one year ago each week.

Read on 

Twelve states sue Biden administration over emissions executive order

Twelve states filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on March 8, alleging that the administration violated the separation of powers in a Jan. 20 executive order.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) is leading 12 states in the suit: Missouri, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. All 12 states have Republican attorneys general. 

There are 24 Republican and 23 Democratic attorneys general. One is nonpartisan, and two are acting attorneys general for whom we don’t have affiliation information. The following map shows which states’ attorneys general signed onto the lawsuit.

Biden ordered agencies to account for the social cost of greenhouse emissions. The order states that the social costs of carbon, nitrous oxide, and methane are estimates of monetized damages “intended to include changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damage from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services.” The order states that this calculation is necessary for cost-benefit analyses of regulatory actions.

The lawsuit states that setting the social cost “is an inherently speculative, policy-laden, and indeterminate task, which involves attempting to predict such unknowable contingencies as future human migrations, international conflicts, and global catastrophes for hundreds of years into the future. Assigning such values is a quintessentially legislative action that falls within Congress’s exclusive authority under Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution.”

This is the first multistate lawsuit filed against the Biden administration. The following data is from the State Litigation and AG Activity Database. Of the six previous administrations, George H.W. Bush’s (R) administration saw the fewest multistate lawsuits—20. Donald Trump’s (R) administration had the most at 156.

Here is the average number of multistate lawsuits per year by administration:

  • Reagan: 3.75
  • H.W. Bush: 5
  • Clinton: 5.25
  • W. Bush: 9.5
  • Obama: 9.75
  • Trump: 39

Read on

Chief Justice Roberts was the lone dissenter for the first time

On March 8, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts filed his first lone dissent since joining the court in 2005. A lone dissent is when only one judge casts a dissenting vote on a case.

The court issued an 8-1 opinion in Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski concerning whether nominal damages claims provide legal standing in federal cases. Nominal damages claims are when a judge finds in favor of one party in a lawsuit but concludes that no real harm was done and therefore awards a very small amount of monetary relief. The court held that awarding nominal damages provides legal standing in a case, meaning that the plaintiff has the legal right to sue. 

Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, concluding that nominal damages claims are not a sufficient basis for Article III legal standing in a case. It was the first time where he was the only justice that dissented on a case argued before the Court. 

William Rehnquist, who was chief justice from 1986-2005, was the lone dissenter nine times during his term. 

Read on 



Bold Justice: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for March 1

Bold Justice by Ballotpedia

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

The Supreme Court will begin its March sitting during the week of March 22 via teleconference with live audio. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19. SCOTUS will hear arguments in nine cases for a total of seven hours of oral argument.

On March 5, the court’s Public Information Office reported that all nine justices had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Click the links below to preview the cases on the docket for the March sitting:

March 22-24

March 29-31

Grants

SCOTUS accepted two cases since our March 1 issue, for a total of two hours of oral argument. The cases will be scheduled for argument during the court’s 2021-2022 term, which is slated to begin on October 4, 2021. To date, the court has accepted seven cases for the upcoming October term. 

José Luis Vaello-Madero, a Puerto Rican-born United States citizen, was receiving SSI benefit payments while living in New York. Vaello-Madero returned to Puerto Rico to care for his wife, who had taken ill. The Social Security Administration (SSA) discontinued his benefits based on a statutory requirement that an SSI beneficiary live within the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands.

The federal government filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico for repayment of benefits Vaello-Madero received after moving to Puerto Rico. Vaello-Madero raised an affirmative defense that the SSI statute violated his right to equal protection under the Fifth Amendment because it excluded Puerto Rico residents. The district court ruled in Vaello-Madero’s favor, holding that Congress had no rational basis for discriminating against U.S. citizen residents in Puerto Rico in passing the SSI provisions. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit affirmed, or upheld, the ruling. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.

The federal government petitioned the Supreme Court for review and asked the court: “Whether Congress violated the equal-protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by establishing Supplemental Security Income-a program that provides benefits to needy aged, blind, and disabled individuals-in the 50 States and the District of Columbia, and in the Northern Mariana Islands pursuant to a negotiated covenant, but not extending it to Puerto Rico.”

David Babcock was a dual-status technician with the Michigan National Guard who participated in the Civil Service Retirement System (“CSRS”) and paid Social Security taxes on certain qualifying income. A dual-status technician is a federal civilian employee assigned to a civilian position while serving in the National Guard.

Upon his retirement, Babcock applied for Social Security benefits. The SSA granted Babcock’s application but reduced his benefits since he also received CSRS pension payments. Babcock asked the SSA to reconsider, citing the SSA’s uniformed services exception and arguing that his pension plan was covered. The SSA did not change its determination. On appeal, an administrative law judge and the SSA Appeals Council upheld the determination. Babcock filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

In other, similar cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued opposite rulings on whether dual-status technicians are exempt, creating a circuit split. A circuit split occurs when federal appeals courts issue opposite interpretations of federal law.

In Babcock’s case, the Western District of Michigan ruled that his uniformed service did not qualify under the exception. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit affirmed that ruling. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 

Babcock appealed to the Supreme Court, asking: “Is a civil-service pension payment based on dual-status military technician service to the National Guard a payment based wholly on service as a member of a uniformed service?”

SCOTUS has agreed to hear 63 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Twelve of those 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 2019-2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 61 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Opinions

SCOTUS issued two opinions since our March 1 issue. The court has issued 18 opinions so far this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court issued opinions in the following cases:

In a 7-2 opinion, the court reversed the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court ruled that FOIA’s Exemption 5, or its deliberative process privilege, protects in-house draft biological opinions made during deliberation and before a final decision, including when the draft reflects the agencies’ final views about a proposal. 

A biological opinion is a document stating the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the National Marine Fisheries Service’s opinion on whether a federal agency action is likely to harm listed species or critical habitat.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett delivered the majority opinion, her first since joining the court. Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

  • Pereida v. Barr concerned the burden of proof required for nonpermanent residents to be eligible for removal relief under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and was argued before SCOTUS on October 14, 2020. The case was originally scheduled for argument during the 2019-2020 term but was postponed due to public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19.

In a 5-3 ruling, the court affirmed the 8th Circuit’s judgment. The court ruled that to cancel a lawful removal order, a nonpermanent resident must show they have not been convicted of a disqualifying offense under the INA. The petitioner did not meet that burden of proof because it was unclear whether a disqualifying offense was used as part of his conviction.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, his first of the current term. Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • March 19: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • March 22: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders.
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 23: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 24: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 26: SCOTUS will conference. 
  • March 29: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders.
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in three cases.
  • March 30: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 31: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.

SCOTUS trivia

In what year was the Supreme Court Building, SCOTUS’ permanent home, built?

a) 1801
b) 1935
c) 1835
d) 1911

Choose an answer to find out!

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 February 1 to March 1. 

Highlights

  • Vacancies: There have been seven new judicial vacancies since the January 2021 report. There are 64 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, 67 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.
  • Nominations: There were no new nominations since the January 2021 report.
  • Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the January 2021 report.
  • Comparison to previous presidential administrations: Not including appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, Presidents Donald Trump (R) and George H.W. Bush (R) made their first Article III judicial appointments by June 1 of the first year of their presidencies. Presidents George W. Bush (R) and Ronald Reagan (R) made their first appointments by August 1, and Presidents Barack Obama (D) and Bill Clinton (D) made their first Article III judicial appointments by October 1 of their first years in office.

Vacancy count for March 1, 2021

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

Eleven judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the last vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, the president nominates a replacement to fill the vacancies. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of March 1, 2021.

New nominations

As of March 1, 2021, President Joe Biden (D) had not announced any new nominations. The average number of judicial appointees per president through March 1 of their first year is zero.

For comparison with Biden’s six immediate predecessors:

  • President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through his first year with 41. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.
  • President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments through four years with 234. President Ronald Reagan made the fewest through four years with 166.
  • President Donald Trump made no Article III nominations by March 1 of his first year in office.

In a March 1 interview in The New York Times, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said he would adhere to the precedent established by his predecessors–Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman during the 116th Congress, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman during the 115th Congress–and follow the blue-slip tradition for district court nominees but not for circuit court nominees. Durbin said he might reconsider following the blue slip tradition with district court nominees. Click here to learn more about the blue slip policy for federal judicial nominations.

New confirmations

As of March 1, 2021, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

As of March 1 of the first year of President Donald Trump’s presidency, the U.S. Senate had not confirmed any Article III judicial nominees.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of current federal judicial vacancies.

Or, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

This edition of Bold Justice sends us back to the first decade of the new millennium as we continue our travels through the history of past presidential administrations’ federal judicial appointments. Today, we’re taking a look at President George W. Bush’s (R) judicial nominees.

During his two terms in office, President Bush made 340 judicial appointments. Of those, 328 were Article III judges. Among the most notable are Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito

When President Bush assumed office in January 2001, he inherited 84 life-term vacancies out of 862 total Article III judgeships (9.74%), the third-highest vacancy percentage since the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan (R) in January 1981. 

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–Bush appointed 63 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 261 judges to U.S. district courts, and two judges to the U.S. Court of International Trade

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on March 22 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

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