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All three candidates for Office 67 on the Superior Court of Los Angeles County complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Survey

All three candidates in the nonpartisan primary for Office 67 of the Superior Court of Los Angeles CountyFernanda Maria Barreto, Ryan Dibble, and Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes—have submitted Candidate Connection surveys to Ballotpedia. These surveys allow voters to hear directly from candidates about what motivates them on political and personal levels.

The race for Office 67 is one we are watching closely. The Los Angeles Times‘ editorial board wrote, “For many years, the most successful judicial candidates were prosecutors, presumably because voters believed that they would … deal more harshly with criminal defendants,” but added that “[t]his year there are several deputy public defenders running, an interesting development that’s part of the broader movement for criminal justice reform.”

Barreto and Dibble both have prosecutorial experience, working as deputy district attorneys in Los Angeles County. Lashley-Haynes has experience as a deputy public defender in the county’s public defender office.

When completing the survey, every candidate is asked to provide the key messages they want to share with voters. Here are excerpts from those responses. You can read each candidate’s full survey responses by clicking on their names:

Fernanda Maria Barreto: “With almost 16 years of experience as a DDA handling complex felony cases including murder, rape, and domestic violence, I am capable and qualified to take on the responsibility of being a Superior Court Judge.”

Ryan Dibble: “I will seek to maintain public safety and integrity of the judicial system by properly and objectively exercising discretion within the confines of the law.”

Elizabeth Lashley-Haines: “Improve public safety by addressing the root causes of crime”

Unlike partisan top-two primaries in California, in nonpartisan primaries, a candidate who receives more than 50% of the vote wins the primary outright. If no candidate crosses that threshold, the top two vote-getters will advance to a Nov. 8 runoff.

While the race is officially nonpartisan, meaning candidates will appear on the ballot without party labels, all three candidates have been endorsed by at least one organization affiliated with the Democratic Party.

There are 494 judges on the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, making it the largest trial court in the country. Judges serve six-year terms. Offices on the court only appear on the ballot when an incumbent judge is challenged or, in the case of Office 67, no incumbent files for re-election. In 2022, contested races are scheduled for nine of the 167 offices up for election. Click here to learn more about judicial selection in California.

Judges on the Superior Court of Los Angeles County conduct all original trials in the county, except in cases where appellate level courts have original jurisdiction. According to the court’s website, “Cases range from simple traffic infractions to murders; landlord/tenant disputes to multi-million dollar lawsuits; guardianships to involuntary commitments.”



U.S. Senate confirms nominee to 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

The U.S. Senate on Sept. 20 confirmed one of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to a lifetime Article III judgeship.

Veronica Rossman was nominated to the 10th Circuit on May 12 to replace Judge Carlos Lucero, who assumed senior status on Feb. 1. Rossman was rated as Qualified by a substantial majority and Well Qualified by a minorityby the American Bar Association. Rossman will join the court upon receiving her judicial commission and taking her judicial oath.

To date, 12 of Biden’s appointees have been confirmed. For historical comparison since 1981, the following list shows the date by which the past six presidents had 12 Article III judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate:

Currently, 10 Article III nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote from the U.S Senate, seven nominees are awaiting a Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance their nominations to the full Senate, and 12 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for July 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies in Article III courts from July 2 to Aug. 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Vacancies: There have been two new judicial vacancies since the June 2021 report. There are 80 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 84 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.
  • Nominations: There were no new nominations since the June 2021 report.
  • Confirmations: There has been one new confirmation since the June 2021 report.

Two judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies 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 Joe Biden (D) 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 Joe Biden (D) and as of Aug. 1.

File:UUbHy-court-of-appeals-vacancies-biden-inauguration-.png

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced no new nominations since the June 2021 report.

New confirmations

As of Aug. 1, the Senate has confirmed eight of President Biden’s judicial nominees—five district court judges and three appeals court judges—since January 2021.

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Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for May 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies in Article III courts from May 1 to June 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Vacancies: There have been six new judicial vacancies since the April 2021 report. There are 82 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 85 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

• Nominations: There were six new nominations since the April 2021 report.

• Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the April 2021 report.

Six judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies 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 Ursula Ungaro assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

• Judge Thomas Thrash assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

• Judge Evan Wallach assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

• Judge Anthony Trenga assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

• Judge Petrese Tucker assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

• Judge Denny Chin assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd 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 Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

File:BKYS4-u-s-court-of-appeals-vacancies(6-1-21).png

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) and as of June 1.

File:UUbHy-court-of-appeals-vacancies-biden-inauguration-.png
File:T7YhD-court-of-appeals-vacancies-june-1-2021-.png

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced six new nominations since the April 2021 report.

• Gustavo Gelpí, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit

• Eunice Lee, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

• Veronica Rossman, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit

• Angel Kelley, to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

• Karen Williams, to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey

• Lauren King, to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

New confirmations

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

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SCOTUS issues 8-1 opinion, Chief Justice Roberts dissents

On March 8, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an opinion in the case 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 therefore 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 does provide 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 so far 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 dissent since joining the court in 2005. Roberts filed a dissent in the case Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, which was decided without argument.

To date, the court has issued opinions in 19 cases for the current term. Four cases were decided without argument.

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Direct Legislative Appointment method produces the lowest average partisanship confidence score for state supreme court justices according to the Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship study. 

Direct legislative appointment yields the lowest average partisan confidence score for state supreme court justices of any method, according to the Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship study. The Michigan-Ohio method produced the highest average partisan confidence score of 11 for all justices, while the direct legislative appointment method produced an average partisan confidence score of 5 for its justices.  

In addition to recording the lowest average partisan confidence score for justices, the direct legislative appointment method produced a court balance score of 3.7. The court balance score recorded for direct legislative appointment was the fifth-highest across the eight selection methods. We arrived at a court balance score by finding the average of partisan confidence scores while accounting for the differences between Democrats and Republicans, whereas the average score, also referred to as the pure partisanship score, is the average of all scores without regard to the differences between Democrats and Republicans. 

Although the direct legislative appointment method produced a low average partisanship score for its justices, this could be due to the fact that it is used in fewer states than other methods. Only South Carolina and Virginia use direct legislative appointment.

South Carolina has four justices with mild Republican affiliation and one justice with indeterminate partisan affiliation. The court balance score for South Carolina is 4.2, mildly Republican. The pure partisanship score for South Carolina’s justices is 4.6, compared to the national average of 7.

Virginia has one justice with strong Republican affiliation, three justices with mild Republican affiliation, one justice with mild Democratic affiliation, and two justices with indeterminate partisan affiliation. The court balance score for Virginia is 3.3, mildly Republican. The pure partisanship score for Virginia’s justices is 5.3, compared to the national average of 7.

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Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for March 1

Suggested headline: Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for March 1

Type: Monthly update

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies to all United States Article III federal courts from February 1, 2021, to March 1, 2021. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

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.

New vacancies

There were 64 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 7.4.

• The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.

• Four (2.2%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.

• 59 (8.7%) of the 677 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.*

• One (11.1%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions is vacant.

*District court count does not include territorial courts.

Seven judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies 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 Vanessa Bryant assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

• Judge Solomon Oliver assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

• Judge Victoria Roberts assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

• Judge Carmen Cerezo retired from the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.

• Judge Janet Neff assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

• Judge Tim Savage assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

• Judge Paul Barbadoro assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

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 Joe Biden (D) 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 Joe Biden (D) and as of March 1, 2021.

New nominations

As of March 1, 2021, President Joe Biden (D) had not announced any new nominations.

New confirmations

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

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SCOTUS vacates appellate court ruling, remands case to bankruptcy court in City of Chicago, Illinois v. Fulton

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building

On January 14, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a unanimous ruling in the case City of Chicago, Illinois v. Fulton. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and concerned retained property under the federal Bankruptcy Code. The case was argued during the court’s October term for 2020-2021 on October 13, 2020. Oral arguments were initially scheduled for April 20 but were postponed in response to public health guidance on COVID-19.

The case: The City of Chicago towed and impounded Robbin Fulton’s vehicle. Fulton filed a petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and a repayment plan in federal bankruptcy court. Fulton requested that the City return her vehicle. The City declined to do so. Fulton moved for sanctions against the City of Chicago. The City asserted that it would retain possession of the vehicle and cited an exemption from the Bankruptcy Code’s automatic stay.

The bankruptcy court ruled that the City was required to return the vehicle, imposed sanctions, and sustained Fulton’s objection to the City’s assertion of its status as a secured creditor. The City moved to stay the order, but the court denied the request. The City returned the vehicle and appealed to the 7th Circuit. The court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s ruling.

The issue: “Whether an entity that is passively retaining possession of property in which a bankruptcy estate has an interest has an affirmative obligation under the Bankruptcy Code’s automatic stay, 11 U.S.C § 362, to return that property to the debtor or trustee immediately upon the filing of the bankruptcy petition.”

The outcome: In an 8-0 opinion, the court vacated the 7th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case, holding that retaining property after a bankruptcy petition is filed does not violate the Bankruptcy Code.

As of January 14, 2021, the court had issued opinions in 11 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

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State supreme court vacancies in 2021

So far in 2021, there have been two new state supreme court vacancies in two of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have both been caused by retirements. 

In Colorado, Chief Justice Nathan Coats retired on January 1, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 72. Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) appointed Maria Berkenkotter to the Colorado Supreme Court on November 20, 2020. Berkenkotter is Polis’ first nominee to the seven-member supreme court. In South Dakota, Chief Justice David Gilbertson retired in early January, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 years old. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) appointed Scott P. Myren to the South Dakota Supreme Court on October 28, 2020.

Currently, Maine is the only appointment state which had a vacancy in 2020 which has yet to be filled.

Three more states will see vacancies from retirement on their state supreme courts in 2021:

• Joel Bolger, June 30, 2021, Alaska

• Leslie Stein, June 4, 2021, New York

• Eugene Fahey, December 31, 2021, New York

In Alaska, the vacancy will be filled by Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy. Both of the vacancies on the New York Supreme Court will be filled by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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Differing deference views in FDA abortion pill case

On January 12, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily restored restrictions implemented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) governing the dispensation of an abortion-inducing pill. A district court had ordered the FDA to loosen restrictions on the drug because, in its view, the COVID-19 pandemic made it more difficult for women to access the pills.

In a concurring opinion attached to the court’s action, Chief Justice Roberts argued that the district court should have given judicial deference to the FDA’s judgment about how to adjust its rules during the pandemic. 

He wrote, “Here as in related contexts concerning government responses to the pandemic, my view is that courts owe significant deference to the politically accountable entities with the ‘background, competence, and expertise to assess public health.’”

Justice Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, agreeing with Roberts that “deference is due to reasoned decisions of public health officials grappling with a deadly pandemic.” However, she wrote that “the record here is bereft of any reasoning [… and there] simply is no reasoned decision here to which this Court can defer.”   

Judicial deference is one of the five pillars key to understanding the main areas of debate about the nature and scope of the administrative state. It refers to when a federal court yields to an agency’s interpretation of either a statute that Congress instructed the agency to administer or a regulation promulgated by the agency. In other words, when a law or regulation is challenged in court, the agency’s interpretation is upheld if it is considered to be reasonable, even if the court would prefer a different interpretation.

To learn more about judicial deference or federal responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, see the links below.

To read the full text of the decision, click here.

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