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President Biden has appointed the most federal judges through August 1 of a president’s first year

President Joe Biden (D) has appointed and the Senate has confirmed eight Article III federal judges through August 1 of his first year in office. This is the largest number of Article III judicial appointments through this point in all presidencies going back to President Ronald Reagan (R). The Senate had confirmed five of President Donald Trump’s (R) appointees at this point in his term.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through August 1 of their first year in office is three.

The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed at this point in a presidency is zero. Of the last seven presidents, only Trump had a confirmed Supreme Court justice at this point in his term.

The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees at this point is one. Trump and Biden appointed the most with three each. Presidents Reagan, Bill Clinton (D), and Barack Obama (D) appointed the fewest with zero.

The median number of United States District Court appointees at this point in a term is two. Biden appointed the most with five. Clinton and Obama appointed the fewest with zero.

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.

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Federal judges nominated by Joe Biden



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 79 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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Redistricting review: Federal court rejects Alabama’s attempt to force early release of Census Bureau redistricting data

In this week’s Redistricting Review, we cover news out of Alabama and Colorado.

Alabama: On June 29, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama rejected an attempt by Alabama state officials to force the U.S. Census Bureau to release redistricting data in advance of August 16, the date by which the Bureau has said it will release the data to the states.

Federal law requires that the Bureau deliver redistricting data to the states by April 1 of the year following a census. However, due to delays in conducting the 2020 census and processing the data, the Bureau announced in early 2021 that it would miss this deadline. The state of Alabama sued the Census Bureau on March 11. In his complaint, Alabama Solicitor General Edmund G. LaCour, Jr., said, “The Bureau has no authority to grant itself this extension and deprive Alabama of information to which it is entitled.” LaCour also alleged that the U.S. Census Bureau “intends to use a statistical method called differential privacy to intentionally skew the population tabulations given to States to use for redistricting,” thereby “denying Alabama accurate information about where Alabamians actually live.”

LaCour asked the court to issue an order barring application of the differential privacy method and directing the U.S. Census Bureau to deliver data to the states by March 31. A three-judge panel of Judges Kevin Newsom, Emily Marks, and R. Austin Huffaker (all Donald Trump (R) appointees) heard the case.

The court unanimously rejected Alabama’s request: “The court cannot force the Bureau to do the impossible – that is, comply with an already-lapsed deadline. … Furthermore, the Bureau has made quite clear that it will be able to deliver the redistricting data to the State by August 16, 2021. Again, Plaintiffs have acknowledged that date suffices for them to be able to complete redistricting without injury. We see no prejudice to Plaintiffs in denying a writ of mandamus requiring the Bureau to issue the data any earlier.”

Colorado: On June 29, staff of the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission released preliminary district maps for the Colorado House of Representatives and the Colorado State Senate. The commission will now conduct at least three public hearings on the proposed maps in each of the state’s current congressional districts. This makes for a total of at least 21 public hearings, all of which must also be broadcast online.

After public hearings are concluded, the commission can take a vote on the preliminary map or ask commission staff to make revisions. In order to enact a map, eight of the commission’s 12 members (including at least two unaffiliated members) must approve of it. The Colorado Supreme Court must also sign off on the map.

The staff of the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released preliminary congressional district maps on June 23.

Additional reading:

Redistricting in Alabama after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Colorado after the 2020 census



President Biden nominates six to Article III courts; two to D.C. local courts

President Joe Biden (D) nominated six individuals to Article III judgeships with lifetime terms on June 15:

• Myrna Pérez, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

• Jia Cobb, to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia

• Sarah A.L. Merriam, to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut

• Sarala Nagala, to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut

• Florence Pan, to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia

• Omar A. Williams, to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut

To date, Biden has nominated 24 individuals to federal judgeships. Five of the nominees have been confirmed. There were 81 Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary as of June 1.

As of his inauguration in January 2021, Biden inherited 46 Article III vacancies: two vacancies in the U.S. courts of appeal, 43 vacancies in the U.S. district courts, and one vacancy on the U.S. Court of International Trade. Biden announced his first federal judicial nominees on March 30.

President Biden also nominated two individuals to Washington, D.C., local courts on June 15:

• Tovah Calderon, to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals

• Kenia Seoane Lopez, to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

Washington, D.C., has two local courts: the superior court—a trial court of general jurisdiction—and a court of appeals. Justices on these courts are nominated by the U.S. president after recommendation from the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission. They then face confirmation by the U.S. Senate. D.C. judges are appointed to 15-year renewable terms.

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Federal judge rules California’s ban on assault weapons is unconstitutional

Federal District Court Judge Roger Benitez ruled on June 4 that California’s Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, which banned all assault weapons in California, violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and unlawfully restricts the kinds of firearms protected under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings. ​He wrote, “Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR-15 type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.”

The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 was California’s first assault weapons act. It defined an assault weapon as any firearm specified in Penal Code 12276 and made it illegal for such firearms to be sold, purchased, manufactured, distributed, or imported. The California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act in Kasler v. Lockyer in 2000.

The current case originated in 2019, when James Miller, a state resident, and the San Diego County Gun Owners, a political action committee, filed a lawsuit against then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D).

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a statement in response to the judge’s ruling, saying, “Today’s decision is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period.”

To read the full ruling, click here.

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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 81 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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Supreme Court accepts case regarding copyright infringement for next term

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) released orders on June 1 emanating from its May 27 conference, granting one new case for argument during the upcoming 2021-2022 term. 

Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and concerns copyright infringement claims involving fabric designs and copyright registration validity.

In 2011, fabric design corporation Unicolors, Inc. (“Unicolors”) applied for and received a copyright registration for a group of designs in a “single-unit filing” from the U.S. Copyright Office. Nine of the designs were “confined” designs, meaning that they were created for specific customers and released to the public after the customer was allowed explicit use of the design(s). 

In 2015, clothing retailer and designer H&M started selling a jacket and skirt using the design named “Xue Xu”. Upon discovering the products, Unicolors filed a copyright infringement action against H&M in federal district court, alleging that H&M’s design was similar to its own. A jury found H&M liable for willful infringement. H&M appealed, claiming that Unicolors’ copyright registration application included false information since it said that all of the designs were first published on January 15, 2011, when nine had been confined designs.

On appeal, the 9th Circuit concluded that Unicolors’ registration contained known inaccuracies, reversed the district court’s judgment, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The district court’s remand instructions were to inquire with the Register of Copyrights about the copyright registration, whether the inaccuracies would have caused it to refuse registration, and enter judgment for H&M if the registration would have been refused.

When SCOTUS accepted the case, it limited review to the first question presented to the court: Whether the 9th Circuit erred in holding that 17 U.S.C. §411 required referral to the Copyright Office where there is no indication of fraud or material error related to the work at issue in the copyright registration?

To date, the court has agreed to hear 18 cases during the October 2021 term. One case was dismissed after it was granted.

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Redistricting review: Sixth Circuit rules Ohio has standing to sue Census Bureau over delayed data

On May 18, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Ohio has standing to sue Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo over the U.S. Census Bureau’s plan to release redistricting data to the states by September 30 instead of the April 1 deadline set forth in federal statutes.

The Sixth Circuit found that Ohio meets all three requirements for standing to bring a lawsuit: “First, Ohio suffered (and continues to suffer) an informational injury because the Secretary failed to deliver Ohio’s data as the Census Act requires. Second, the injury is traceable to the Secretary because Ohio’s informational injury is the direct result of the Secretary’s failure to produce the required data. And third, Ohio’s injury is redressable.” 

The panel unanimously sent the case back to the district court for further consideration. The three judges on the panel were Martha Daughtrey (a Bill Clinton (D) appointee), David McKeague (a George W. Bush (R) appointee), and Amul Thapar (a Donald Trump (R) appointee). 

The state filed its lawsuit (Ohio v. Coggins) against the Census Bureau in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on Feb. 25. Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers said, “The unavailability of decennial census data irreparably harms the State: the Ohio Constitution requires the State to use decennial census data during redistricting if the data is available, and allows the use of alternative data sources only as a second-best option. By blocking the State from conducting redistricting using decennial census data, the Census Bureau’s decision prevents the State from conducting redistricting in the constitutionally preferred manner.” 

The state asked that the court “issue an injunction either prohibiting the defendants from delaying the release of Ohio’s redistricting data beyond March 31, or else requiring the defendants to provide the State with Ohio’s population data at the earliest date this Court deems equitable.”

Judge Thomas Rose, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, dismissed the lawsuit on March 24, 2021, writing, “The Court will therefore reject Ohio’s request for an order that pretends that the Census Bureau could provide census-based redistricting data by March 31. The Court cannot ‘order a party to jump higher, run faster, or lift more than she is physically capable.'” The next day, the state appealed Rose’s decision to the Sixth Circuit, which heard oral argument on May 12. 

A similar lawsuit is pending in Alabama.

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Union Station: A breakdown of public-sector union litigation in the federal courts

Today’s newsletter marks the third anniversary of Union Station. Our first edition launched in May 2018 in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. Thank you for joining us as we’ve followed developments in public-sector union policy, litigation, and national debate since then.

A breakdown of public-sector union litigation in the federal courts

Since late 2019, Ballotpedia has tracked 130 federal lawsuits related to public-sector labor laws. Let’s take a quick look at the breakdown.

These lawsuits address one or more of the following types of questions (some cases are counted twice in the list below): 

  • Whether public-sector unions can be held liable for refunding agency fees paid before the Janus v. AFSCME ruling (82 cases), 
  • Whether public-sector unions may continue to collect union dues after union membership withdrawal if there is a pre-existing agreement for fees deduction throughout a given time period (58 cases), or 
  • Whether exclusive bargaining representation laws violate non-union members’ First Amendment rights (23 cases). 

United States federal courts decide disputes involving the Constitution and laws passed by Congress. There are 94 district courts, which are general trial courts that fall into 12 geographically-defined federal appellate circuits (the thirteenth court being the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit). Appeals courts can hear appeals from the district courts within their judicial circuits, and appeals court decisions can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Of the 130 cases we’ve tracked, 43 are pending or were resolved in U.S. district courts, and 70 are pending or were resolved in appellate courts. Seventeen cases have been appealed to the Supreme Court, which has denied petitions in nine of those cases so far. Seven are pending, and Janus is the only case in which a ruling has been issued.  

The chart below compares the volume of lawsuits that have originated in each federal circuit. We’ve tracked 57 cases originating in the Ninth Circuit, compared to only one case in the Eleventh Circuit.

In the majority of cases that have been decided so far, rulings have favored union and state defendants.   

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 92 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. 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

No relevant legislative actions have taken place since our last issue. 




Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for April 2021

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

HIGHLIGHTS

Vacancies: There have been six new judicial vacancies since the March 2021 report. There are 75 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, 79 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

Nominations: There were three new nominations since the March 2021 report.

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

New vacancies

There were 75 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 8.6.

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

• Seven (3.9%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.

• 66 (9.8%) of the 673 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.*

• Two (22.2%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions are vacant.

*District court count does not include the territorial courts.

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 Catherine Blake assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

• Judge Emmet Sullivan assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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

• Judge Timothy Stanceu assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of International Trade.

• Judge Colleen McMahon assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

• Judge George Daniels assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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:US Court of Appeals vacancies chart 050121.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 May 1, 2021.

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

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced three new nominations since the March 2021 report.

New confirmations

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

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