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.
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.