On July 29, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R ) filled two vacancies on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal. The court is one of five intermediate appellate courts in Florida. Intermediate appellate courts serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort in a state. The Florida District Courts of Appeal were established in 1957 to relieve the case docket of the Florida Supreme Court.
John K. Stargel fills the vacancy created by the resignation of former judge Samuel Salario, who resigned from the court on June 4, 2020, to take a job in the investment industry. Prior to joining the appellate court, he was a judge on Florida’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Court.
Suzanne Labrit, who has worked in private law practice for over two decades, fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge John Badalamenti to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Both judges must stand for retention election in 2022 in order to serve full six-year terms on the court.
Judicial positions in Florida are nonpartisan. Of the 16 judges currently sitting on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, two were appointed by a Democratic governor and 14 were appointed by a Republican governor. Of the 48 judgeships across the other four district appellate courts, only one sitting judge was appointed by a Democratic governor. The rest were appointed by a Republican governor.
The Santa Fe County Commission appointed Tara Lujan (D) to the New Mexico House of Representatives on July 23. Lujan fills the District 48 seat vacated by Linda Trujillo (D) on July 9, when Trujillo resigned in order to focus on full-time work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lujan will serve in the New Mexico legislature until the end of the year. Since Trujillo was running for re-election when she resigned, the Democratic Central Committee in Santa Fe County will also select a replacement candidate for the November 3 ballot. Before she resigned, Trujillo advanced unopposed from the June 2 primary election. No candidates from other parties may be nominated to the November ballot, as no candidates from other parties filed to run in the district before the filing deadline passed.
New Mexico has a Democratic state government trifecta. In the November 2018 elections, the New Mexico House of Representatives’ Democratic majority increased from 38-31 (with one vacancy) to 46-24. All 70 seats in the chamber are up for election this year.
Natrona County commissioners appointed Kevin O’Hearn (R) to the Wyoming House of Representatives on July 28 to fill the seat vacated when Carl “Bunky” Loucks (R) resigned in early July. O’Hearn was sworn into office on July 30. He will represent District 59 in the chamber for the remainder of Loucks’ unexpired term, which is set to end on January 3, 2021.
O’Hearn’s professional experience includes working as the building inspector and assistant town manager for Mills, Wyoming. Several commissioners cited his tenure in local government as their motivation for the appointment.
O’Hearn had already filed to run for Loucks’ seat this year and will face David Carpenter and Leah Juarez in the Republican primary on August 18. Loucks, who did not file to run for re-election, said he resigned to focus on running his business. No candidates filed to run in the district’s Democratic primary.
In 40 of the 60 races for the Wyoming House of Representatives occurring this year, no candidates filed in the Democratic primary. No candidates filed for the Republican primary in just five of the 60 districts.
Marion County Democratic committee members appointed Blake Johnson (D) to represent District 100 in the state House of Representatives on Saturday, June 27. Johnson replaces former Representative Dan Forestal (D), who resigned on June 15 following the second of two arrests he experienced in 2019 and 2020.
Johnson served as a city-county councillor in Indianapolis up until his appointment to the state legislature. He filed to run for the 100th District seat and advanced from the Democratic primary on June 2, defeating Clif Marsiglio with 74.7% of the vote. Johnson will face Republican Wayne Harmon in the general election on November 3.
Heading into this year’s elections, there were eight open seats in the Indiana House of Representatives where the incumbent did not file to run for re-election. Forestal’s seat in District 100 was one of them. Only one incumbent, Republican Dollyene Sherman, was defeated in the state’s June 2 primaries. The election years 2018, 2016, and 2014 also each saw one incumbent defeated. As of June 25, 51 incumbents (16 Democrats and 35 Republicans) have been defeated in state legislative primaries this year.
Gov. Kristi Noem (R) appointed Casey Crabtree (R) to the South Dakota State Senate on June 19, one day after Jordan Youngberg (R) resigned to take a full-time position with the South Dakota State Treasurer’s office. Crabtree’s appointment to represent District 8 was effective immediately.
Crabtree will serve the remainder of Youngberg’s unexpired term, which ends on January 11, 2021. At the time of his appointment, Crabtree had already declared his candidacy for the District 8 seat. He is running unopposed in the Nov. 3 general election.
86 of 99 state legislative chambers nationwide are holding elections in 2020, including both chambers of the South Dakota State Legislature. Heading into the 2020 elections, Republicans hold a majority 61 chambers compared to Democrats’ 37. In the Alaska House, there is a power-sharing agreement between the parties as part of a coalition.
Republicans hold a supermajority in the South Dakota State Senate and the South Dakota House of Representatives, as well as a Republican state government trifecta.
Gov. Tony Evers (D) appointed Wisconsin State Assemblymember Chris Taylor (D) to the Dane County Circuit Court on June 11, replacing Jill Karofsky, who was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 7. Taylor said she plans to continue to serve in the state legislature until just before her swearing-in on the court August 1, which is also the day Karofsky is sworn into the state Supreme court.
Taylor was first elected to represent District 76 in the General Assembly in a 2011 special election. She did not file to run for re-election to the legislature this year.
The Dane County Circuit Court is one of 72 circuit courts, or trial courts, in Wisconsin. Judicial elections in Wisconsin are nonpartisan, though candidates often receive support from partisan organizations. Wisconsin is one of 18 states that select judges through nonpartisan elections at all trial court levels.
The county commissioners of Washington and Multnomah Counties appointed Maxine Dexter (D) to the Oregon House of Representatives on June 12. Dexter succeeds the late Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D), who died May 15.
Dexter represents District 33 in the state House, a position for which she is already running. She won the Democratic primary on May 19 with 39.6% of the vote. Dexter will face Dick Courter (R), who was unopposed in the Republican primary, in the Nov. 3 general election. The unexpired portion of Greenlick’s term ends on January 10, 2021.
All 60 seats in the Oregon House of Representatives are up for election in 2020. Democrats currently hold a 38-22 majority in the state House and an 18-12 majority in the state Senate.
Going into the 2020 state legislative elections, Oregon is one of 15 Democratic state government trifectas. A state government trifecta describes when one party holds the governor’s office and a majority in both chambers of the state legislature. There are currently 21 Republican state government trifectas and 14 divided governments.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D) nominated attorney Fabiana Pierre-Louis to the New Jersey Supreme Court on June 5, in anticipation of the retirement of Justice Walter Timpone. Timpone will be required to step down from the court when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 years old this November.
Under New Jersey law, state court judges are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. If confirmed, Pierre-Louis would become the first Black female justice to join the court. She would also be the first Black justice to sit on the supreme court bench since John E. Wallace, Jr., for whom Pierre-Louis clerked after law school, left the court in 2010.
Founded in 1776, the New Jersey Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. Of the seven justices currently on the court, two were appointed by a Democratic governor, and five were appointed by a Republican governor. Pierre-Louis is Gov. Murphy’s first appointment to the court.
In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from May 2, 2020, to June 2, 2020. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.
HIGHLIGHTS • Vacancies: There have not been any new judicial vacancies since the April 2020 report. There are 74 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, 80 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant. • Nominations: There have been five new nominations since the April 2020 report. • Confirmations: There have been four new confirmations since the April 2020 report.
There were 74 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 8.5.
• The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.
• One (0.6%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions is vacant.
• 71 (10.5%) of the 677 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.
• Two (22.2%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions are vacant.
A vacancy occurs when a judge resigns, retires, takes senior status, or passes away. Article III judges, who serve on courts authorized by Article III of the Constitution, are appointed for life terms.
No judges created Article III life-term judicial vacancies by leaving active status. Vacant Article III judicial positions must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies
The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R) to the date indicated on the chart.
The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R) and as of April 2, 2020.
President Trump has announced five new nominations since the April 2020 report.
1. Roderick Young, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
2. Toby Crouse, to the U.S. Court for the District of Kansas
3. Edmund LaCour, to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama
4. Fred Federici, to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico
5. Brenda Saiz, to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico
Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has nominated 260 individuals to Article III positions.
Since May 2, 2020, the U.S. Senate has confirmed four of President Trump’s nominees to Article III seats. As of June 2, 2020, the Senate has confirmed 197 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—142 district court judges, 51 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.
1. Scott Rash, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona
2. Anna Manasco, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
3. John Heil, confirmed to the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Oklahoma
4. John L. Badalamenti, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
Donald Trump has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 197 Article III federal judges through June 1, 2020, his fourth year in office. This is the second-most Article III judicial appointments through this point in all presidencies since Jimmy Carter (D). The Senate had confirmed 228 of Carter’s appointees at this point in his term.
The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through June 1 of their fourth year in office is 176.
The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is two. Along with President Trump, Presidents Barack Obama (D), Bill Clinton (D), and George H.W. Bush (R) had each appointed two Supreme Court justices at this point in their first terms. Ronald Reagan (R) had appointed one, while Carter and George W. Bush (R) had not appointed any.
The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is 32. Trump appointed the most with 51, while Reagan appointed the least with 25. Trump’s 51 appointments make up 28% of the total 179 judgeships across the courts of appeal.
The median number of United States District Court appointees is 142. Carter appointed the most with 176, and Reagan appointed the fewest with 109. Trump has appointed 142 district court judges so far. Those appointments make up 21% of the 677 judgeships across the district courts.
Article III federal judges are appointed for life terms by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate per Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III judges include judges on the: Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. courts of appeal, U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade.