A Republican committee in the Ohio House of Representatives appointed Alessandro “Al” Cutrona (R) to the District 59 seat on May 28. The seat became vacant when late state Rep. Don Manning (R) died unexpectedly in March. Cutrona was sworn in on May 28.
Cutrona is an attorney and works as the chief operating officer and in-house counsel at an infectious disease medical practice in Youngstown, Ohio. He will serve the remainder of Manning’s unexpired term, which ends on December 31, 2020.
Cutrona fills the only vacancy that has occurred in the Ohio legislature this year. With his appointment, the partisan composition of the Ohio House of Representatives is 61 Republicans and 38 Democrats. Ohio has a Republican state government trifecta, which exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
The Republican Party has held a majority in the Ohio State Senate continuously since 1992 and a majority in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1994 until 2008 and again from 2010 to the present.
Former Alabama Representative April Weaver was appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on May 18, 2020.
Weaver will serve as a regional director overseeing Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, and North Carolina. She reports to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Weaver was first elected to the Alabama House of Representatives on November 3, 2010, to serve District 49. In 2018, she was reelected with 97.2% of the vote. On May 12, 2020, she announced her resignation from the Alabama House of Representatives.
Weaver’s departure represents the only vacancy in Alabama’s lower chamber.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appointed John Couriel and Renatha Francis to the Florida Supreme Court on May 26, 2020. Couriel and Francis succeeded Justices Robert J. Luck and Barbara Lagoa, who vacated the seats in November 2019 after being elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Couriel and Francis will join one other DeSantis nominee, Justice Carlos Muñiz, on the seven-member supreme court.
Under Florida law, state supreme court justices are chosen using the assisted appointment method, where the governor chooses a nominee from a list of potential candidates provided by a judicial nominating commission. Newly appointed judges serve for at least one year, after which they appear in a yes-no retention election held during the next general election. If retained, judges serve six-year terms. To remain on the bench, Couriel and Francis must run for retention in 2022.
The appointments were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Normally under state law, DeSantis would have needed to select the new justices by March 23. He delayed the appointments in March, saying he had not had time to review the candidates’ application materials.
Couriel is an attorney at Kobre & Kim in Miami. Before that, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida’s Criminal Division. Couriel obtained his bachelor’s degree (A.B.) and his J.D. from Harvard. He was a 2016 Republican candidate for Florida House of Representatives District 114 and a 2012 Republican candidate for Florida State Senate District 35.
Francis is a judge on the Florida 15th Circuit Court. She was appointed to that court on October 1, 2019, by Gov. DeSantis. Before that, she served on the Florida 11th Circuit Court (2018-2019) and on the Miami-Dade County Court (2017-2018). Francis earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of the West Indies and a J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law. She was born in Jamaica and is the first Caribbean-American to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.
Media coverage of the appointment process focused on issues of diversity and questions surrounding Francis’ eligibility. Appellate lawyer Adam Richardson wrote in Slate that the governor was not authorized to appoint Francis, arguing she did not meet the requirement that Florida Supreme Court justices be admitted to practice law in the state for 10 years prior to assuming the bench. Other writers, like Eugene K. Pettis in the Tallahassee Democrat, argued that waiting to appoint Francis “outweighs the ramifications of our high court lacking diversity for years to come.”
In 2019, there were 22 supreme court vacancies across 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Of those 22 vacancies, 15 are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. Six vacancies occurred in a state where a Democratic governor fills vacancies, while another occurred in a state where a Republican-controlled legislature appoints replacements.
In 2020, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in nine of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Eight vacancies are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement, and four are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. One vacancy is in a state where the state supreme court votes to appoint the replacement.
The Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) nearly nine-month period without a functioning quorum came to a close on Tuesday when the United States Senate voted 49-43 along party lines to confirm Republican attorney Trey Trainor as the commission’s newest member. Trainor’s confirmation created the quorum of members necessary for the FEC to oversee campaign finance disclosures, perform audits, and enforce fundraising violations.
The FEC had lacked a quorum since Republican Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen resigned on August 31, 2019. Trainor joins Republican Chairwoman Caroline Hunter, independent Vice Chairman Steven Walther, and Democratic member Ellen Weintraub on the six-member commission.
The Federal Election Campaign Act requires a vote of at least four of the FEC’s six members for the commission to undertake a number of key policy duties such as promulgating rules, issuing advisory opinions, and deciding enforcement actions. As a result, all of the commission’s four active members must reach a consensus in order to proceed with substantive actions.
The Snohomish County Council made a state legislative appointment to each chamber of the Washington State Legislature May 13.
The council appointed June Robinson (D) to represent District 38 in the Washington State Senate, following the resignation of former Sen. John McCoy (D) from the chamber last month. Robinson previously represented the District 38-Position 1 seat in the state House since 2013. She had already declared her candidacy for the special election to fill McCoy’s seat at the time of her appointment. Robinson will serve in the state senate until the certification of the special election results, which take place 21 days after the general election on Nov. 3 The winner will serve the remaining two years of McCoy’s term.
The council filled the House vacancy left by Robinson’s elevation that same day, appointing Emily Wicks to the Position 1 seat in District 38. She will serve the remainder of Robinson’s unexpired term in the house, set to end on January 11, 2021. Wicks has also filed for re-election.
All 98 seats in the Washington House of Representatives are up for election in 2020. Roughly half the seats in the Washing State Senate are up for election this year as well, as senators serve staggered four-year terms. Washington currently has a Democratic state government trifecta, with the Democratic Party holding the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state has had 14 years of Democratic trifectas and no Republican trifectas since 1992.
Newest Maryland Commissioner of Insurance Kathleen Birrane assumed office May 18. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Birrane May 1 to replace former commissioner Alfred Redmer Jr. Redmer left the Maryland Insurance Administration to become executive director of the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund starting May 18. He had served as commissioner since 2015 after previously holding the position from 2003 to 2005.
The Maryland Commissioner of Insurance serves as head of the Maryland Insurance Administration, an independent agency within the state executive branch created in 1993. The commissioner oversees the department’s efforts to regulate the state’s insurance companies and producers and investigate complaints consumers have about their insurance coverage. Commissioners are appointed by the governor with advice and consent from the Maryland State Senate and serve four-year terms.
Ballotpedia covers 12 state executive offices in Maryland. Seven of those offices are nonpartisan, including the Commissioner of Insurance. Three offices–Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State–are held by Republican officials. Democratic officials hold the offices of Attorney General and Comptroller.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D), who represented District 33 in the Oregon House of Representatives, died of natural causes on May 15. He was first elected to the chamber in 2003 and most recently won re-election in 2018. Greenlick announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election.
Greenlick was a pharmacist and the founding director of the Kaiser Permanent Center for Health Research Foundation Hospitals. He served on the state House’s Health Care Committee, among others, and chaired the committee from 2007 to 2019.
Greenlick’s death is the only current vacancy in the Oregon State Legislature. The board of county commissioners representing District 33 must select his replacement within 30 days. The appointed representative, who must come from the Democratic Party, will serve the remainder of Greenlick’s unexpired term ending on January 10, 2021. Oregon has a Democratic state government trifecta, with the Democratic Party holding the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
On May 15, 2020 Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced District Court Justice Gordon Moore as his first appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Justice David Lillehaug intends to resign in July 2020, and Justice Moore will take his seat on the bench.
Lillehaug has served on the Minnesota Supreme Court since 2013, and announced that he would retire due to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. If Justice Lillehaug had not resigned from the court, he would face nonpartisan election to keep his seat on the bench.
There are seven justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Justices in Minnesota are selected through nonpartisan elections, but in the case of a vacancy the governor appoints a replacement. Each justice currently sitting on the Minnesota Supreme Court was initially placed on the court by the governor to fill a vacancy. Five of the seven justices have been appointed by Democratic governors, and two have been appointed by Republican governors.
When Gov. Walz announced Justice Moore’s appointment, said, “Supreme Court Justices decide some of the most pressing and significant questions of our time, and the feedback from Judge Moore’s peers was resounding: he is a brilliant jurist and a leader in his community. He has spent his career working hard for the people of Southern Minnesota, and he will bring a fair and respected voice to the Minnesota Supreme Court.”
In addition to his judicial experience, Justice Moore served as special assistant and assistant attorney general under Attorney General Skip Humphrey, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
Although the appointment of Justice Moore means that Minnesotans will not vote in a nonpartisan election to fill Justice Lillehaug’s seat, Paul Thissen will be subject to retention through nonpartisan election on November 3, 2020.
Shammara Henderson (D), the first Black judge appointed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, reportedly started hearing cases at the beginning of March. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) appointed Henderson to the court on February 14, 2020, following the retirement of former judge M. Monica Zamora (D) in January.
Henderson’s appointment to the intermediate appellate court is her first judicial position. She worked in the United States Attorney’s Office in New Mexico for six years before moving into private law practice in 2017. She served as the Associate General Counsel to former Gov. Bill Richardson (D) from 2008-2009.
The president of the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association, Aja Brooks, confirmed to The Associated Press that Henderson is the first African-American judge to be appointed to the state appeals court.
Henderson will finish the remainder of Zamora’s eight-year term which runs through the end of 2020. She must run in a partisan general election on Nov. 3, 2020, in order to remain on the court. A second position on the state Court of Appeals, currently held by Judge Zachary Ives, is also up for election this year. Both Ives and Henderson have filed to run.
In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from February 4, 2020, to March 2, 2020. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.
• Vacancies: There has been one new judicial vacancy since the January 2020 report. There are 72 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 78 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.
• Nominations: There have been 10 new nominations since the January 2020 report.
• Confirmations: There have been six new confirmations since the January 2020 report.
There were 72 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 8.3, which is 0.3 percentage points lower than the vacancy percentage in January 2020.
• The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.
• One (0.6%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions is vacant.
• 69 (10.2%) of the 677 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.
• Two (22.2%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions are vacant.
A vacancy occurs when a judge resigns, retires, takes senior status, or passes away. Article III judges, who serve on courts authorized by Article III of the Constitution, are appointed for life terms.
One judge left active status, creating an Article III life-term judicial vacancy. As an Article III judicial position, this vacancy must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.
• Judge Andrew Brasher left his seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama after he was elevated to the U.S Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies
The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R) to the date indicated on the chart.
The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R) and as of March 2, 2020.
President Trump has announced 10 new nominations since the January 2020 report.
• David Dugan, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
• Iain D. Johnston, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
• Franklin U. Valderrama, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
• Christy Wiegand, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
• Saritha Komatireddy, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
• Jennifer Rearden, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
• J. Philip Calabrese, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
• James Knepp II, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
• Brett H. Ludwig, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
• Michael J. Newman, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has nominated 249 individuals to Article III positions.
Since February 4, 2020, the U.S. Senate has confirmed six of President Trump’s nominees to Article III seats. As of March 2, 2020, the Senate has confirmed 193 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—138 district court judges, 51 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.
• Andrew Brasher, confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
• Matthew Schelp, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
• Joshua Kindred, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska
• John Kness, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
• Philip Halpern, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
• Silvia Carreno-Coll, confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico