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Class-action lawsuits over repaying public-sector union fees rejected

Third Circuit rejects class-action lawsuits over repaying public-sector union fees                   

On Aug. 28, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed two lower court rulings that public-sector unions cannot be held liable for repaying fees collected from non-members before Janus v. AFSCME.

Who are the parties to the suit?  

The Third Circuit issued a joint ruling on two separate, but related, lawsuits: 

Diamond v. Pennsylvania State Education Association

The plaintiffs are Arthur Diamond, Jeffrey Schawartz, Sandra H. Ziegler, Matthew Shively, Matthew Simkins, Douglas R. Kase, and Justin Barry, all current or former public school teachers in Pennsylvania. The defendants are the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the Chestnut Ridge Education Association, the National Education Association, and several individuals in their official state capacities.

Wenzig v. Service Employees International Union Local 668

The plaintiffs are Janine Wenzig and Catherine Kioussis, two Pennsylvania state employees. The defendant is the Services Employees International Union Local 668.

What is at issue?

On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that public-sector unions cannot compel non-member employees they represent to pay fees to cover the costs of non-political union activities. To do so, the court determined, would constitute a violation of employees’ First Amendment rights.

Janus overturned the court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Education Association. In Abood, the court ruled that public-sector unions could require non-members to pay fees to support union activities that benefitted them (e.g., collective bargaining).  These fees are generally referred to as either fair-share or agency fees. 

After Janus, the plaintiffs in both Diamond and Wenzig petitioned for reimbursement for the agency fees they, and those similar to them, paid before Janus. On July 8, 2019, Judge Kim Gibson of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania dismissed Diamond, ruling that the union had collected the fees in good faith given then-prevailing law. On Dec. 10, 2019, Judge Malachy E. Mannion of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued a similar dismissal for Wenzig. 

Both the Diamond and Wenzig plaintiffs appealed to the Third Circuit, which consolidated the two suits. Oral argument occurred on April 24. 

How did the court rule?

The appellate panel voted 2-1 to affirm the lower court decisions. Judge Marjorie Rendell, a Bill Clinton (D) appointee, wrote the court’s opinion. Rendell cited similar recent decisions by other federal appellate courts.

We are not the first court of appeals to rule on this question, and we join a growing consensus of our sister circuits who, in virtually identical cases, have held that because the unions collected the fair-share fees in good faith reliance on a governing state statute and Supreme Court precedent, they are entitled to a good faith defense that bars Appellants’ claims for monetary liability under 42 U.S.C. §1983.

42 U.S.C. §1983 “creates a cause of action for plaintiffs who are injured by a person who, acting ‘under the color of any statute … of any State,’ causes the plaintiff to suffer ‘the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution.” Rendell, pointing to unclear Supreme Court precedent on the question of whether “private parties may assert a good faith defense to §1983 liability,” cited a Third Circuit precedent to that effect: 

In Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O’Brien & Frankel, we held that a ‘good faith defense is available’ to private parties who act under color of state law and are sued for monetary liability under §1983. We stated our ‘basic agreement’ that ‘private defendants should not be held liable under §1983 absent a showing of malice and evidence that they either knew or should have known of the state’s constitutional infirmity.’

Judge D. Michael Fisher, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, wrote a separate opinion concurring in the court’s judgment but dissenting from Rendell’s reading of 42 U.S.C. §1983:

[The] Supreme Court has … read immunities and defenses into § 1983, but it has done so principally on the conceit that they were available at common law in 1871, and implicitly incorporated into the statute. While this approach certainly limits the scope of liability, it also constrains judges from straying too far from the statutory text.

Judge Peter Phipps, a Donald Trump (R) appointee, dissented from the judgment, writing: 

The central question presented in these consolidated cases, which seek recovery of agency fees garnished from the wages of non-union members, is whether a good faith affirmative defense exists to a First Amendment compelled speech claim under §1983. I do not see a valid basis for recognizing such a defense. A good faith affirmative defense was not firmly rooted in the common law in 1871 when § 1983 was enacted, and nothing else compels recognition of such a defense today.

About the Third Circuit

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is a federal court that hears appeals from the district courts in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The court has 14 authorized judicial posts and no current vacancies. The chief judge is Brooks Smith, a George W. Bush appointee. Of the court’s 14 active judges, six were appointed by Democrats and eight by Republicans. Appeals are heard in the James A. Byrne Federal Courthouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

What comes next?

Attorneys for the plaintiffs have not said whether they intend to appeal the decision. The case names and numbers are Diamond v. Pennsylvania State Education Association (19-2812) and Wenzig v. Service Employees International Union Local 668 (19-3906).

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 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 legislative actions have been taken on relevant bills since our last issue.



U.S. Senate confirms two U.S. District Court nominees

The U.S. Senate confirmed Christy Wiegand to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and Brett Ludwig to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The Western District of Pennsylvania and the Eastern District of Wisconsin are two of 94 U.S. District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts.

After Wiegand receives her federal judicial commission and takes her judicial oath, the court will have eight Republican-appointed judges and two Democrat-appointed judges. Wiegand will join seven other judges appointed by President Trump.

After Ludwig receives his judicial commission and takes his judicial oath, the court will have two Republican-appointed judges and two Democrat-appointed judges. Ludwig will be the first judge appointed by President Trump to join the court.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed 205 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 53 appellate court judges, 148 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017.

Additional reading


President Trump announces federal judicial nominee to Article I court

On September 2, 2020, President Donald Trump (R) announced his intent to nominate Stephen A. Kubiatowski to a seat on the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Following nomination by the president, a federal judicial nominee completes a questionnaire that is reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee then holds a hearing to question the nominee regarding their judicial philosophy and their previous rulings. The committee also sends the nominee’s home state senators a blue slip, permitting them to express their approval or disapproval of the nominee.

After the hearing, the committee votes to approve or return the nominee. If approved, the nominee is reported to the full Senate for a vote. If returned, the president may renominate the person. If the Senate confirms the nomination, the individual receives commission to serve as a federal judge for a life term. If the individual is not confirmed, they do not become a judge.

There are currently six vacancies on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, out of the court’s 16 judicial positions.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has 10 active Article I judges:
Chief Judge Margaret M. Sweeney – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
Ryan Holte – nominated by President Donald Trump (R)
Patricia Campbell-Smith – nominated by President Barack Obama (D)
Lydia Kay Griggsby – nominated by President Barack Obama (D)
Elaine Kaplan – nominated by President Barack Obama (D)
Thomas C. Wheeler – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
Richard Hertling – nominated by President Donald Trump (R)
David A. Tapp – nominated by President Donald Trump (R)
Matthew Solomson – nominated by President Donald Trump (R)

Eleni Roumel – nominated by President Donald Trump (R)

The court’s 11 judges on senior status are:
Edward J. Damich – nominated by President Bill Clinton (D)
Nancy B. Firestone – nominated by President Bill Clinton (D)
Marian Blank Horn – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
Charles F. Lettow – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
Susan G. Braden – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
Mary Ellen Coster Williams – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
Victor J. Wolski – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
Robert H. Hodges Jr. – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
Loren A. Smith – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
John Paul Wiese – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)

Eric G. Bruggink  – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims is an Article I tribunal, a federal court organized under Article One of the United States Constitution. The court hears claims against the U.S. government. Judgments of the court may be appealed to the Federal Circuit.

The court has jurisdiction over claims across the United States for over $10,000 and congruent jurisdiction with the United States District Courts on claims under $10,000.

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Trump has appointed second-most federal judges through September 1 of a president’s fourth year

Donald Trump has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 203 Article III federal judges through September 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), and is tied with the presidency of Bill Clinton (D). The Senate had confirmed 248 of Carter’s appointees at this point in his term.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through September 1 of their fourth year in office is 191.

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 35. Carter appointed the most with 54, while Reagan appointed the least with 28. Trump’s 53 appointments make up 30% of the total 179 judgeships across the courts of appeal.

The median number of United States District Court appointees is 146. Carter appointed the most with 191, and Reagan appointed the fewest with 117. Trump has appointed 146 district court judges so far. Those appointments make up 22% 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.

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Federal court rejects challenge to Ohio exclusive representation law

Sixth Circuit rejects challenge to Ohio exclusive representation law                   

On Aug. 25, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected a challenge to Ohio laws that allow unions to become exclusive bargaining agents for all public-sector employees within a bargaining unit.

Who are the parties to the suit?  

The plaintiff is Jade Thompson, a Spanish teacher at Marietta High School in Ohio.  Attorneys from the Buckeye Institute and Baker and Hostetler, LLP, represent her. The Buckeye Institute describes itself as “an independent research and educational institution – a think tank – whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states.” 

The defendants are the Marietta City School District Board of Education and the Marietta Education Association, a teachers’ union that is the exclusive bargaining representative for the district’s employees. 

What is at issue?

Ohio law allows a union to become the exclusive bargaining agent for all public-sector employees within a bargaining unit, if the union can prove that a majority of the unit’s members want its representation. If a union has been certified as a unit’s exclusive bargaining agent, the public employer must bargain with that union and no one else. This prohibition extends both to individuals and other labor organizations. 

Thompson, who is not a member of the union that represents her bargaining unit, objects to the union’s “policies and to any association with it.” She filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, alleging that: 

  1. Ohio’s exclusive bargaining law “violates her [First Amendment] rights to be free from compelled speech and association”
  2. The law violates her First Amendment “right to meaningfully communicate with the government”

Judge Michael Watson, who was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush (R), rejected these arguments on Nov. 26, 2019. Thompson appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 

How did the court rule?

The three-judge appellate panel unanimously affirmed the district court’s decision. Judge Amul Thapar, who was appointed to the court by Donald Trump (R), wrote the court’s opinion. Addressing Thompson’s first argument, Thapar cited Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight. In Knight, a group of non-union community college instructors objected to a Minnesota statute allowing an exclusive representative to speak on behalf of all of a bargaining unit’s employees at “meet and confer” sessions. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Minnesota had “in no way restrained [the instructors’] freedom to speak … or their freedom to associate or not to associate with whom they please.” Thapar wrote: 

“Knight controls here. If allowing exclusive representatives to speak for all employees at “meet and confer” sessions does not violate the First Amendment, we see no basis for concluding that the result should be different where the union engages in more traditional collective bargaining activities. It appears that every other circuit to address the issue has agreed.”

Regarding Thompson’s second argument, Thapar wrote: 

“First, we consider Smith v. Arkansas State Highway Employees. There, the [Supreme Court] held that the First Amendment imposes no “affirmative obligation on the government to listen, to respond[,] or . . . [to] bargain.” And since the government has no obligation to bargain with Thompson, it is difficult to see how the government’s decision to bargain with someone else violates her rights. Second, in Knight, the Supreme Court recognized that it was “doubtless true that the unique status of the exclusive representative … amplifies its voice in the policymaking process.” But amplification “is inherent in government’s freedom to choose its advisers.” And a “person’s right to speak is not infringed when government simply ignores that person while listening to others.” Thus, Knight again forecloses Thompson’s claim.”

Judges Julia Gibbons and Richard Griffin, both George W. Bush (R) appointees, joined Thapar’s opinion. 

About the Sixth Circui

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is a federal court that hears appeals from the district courts within its jurisdiction, which includes Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. The court has 16 authorized judicial posts and no current vacancies. The chief judge is Guy Cole, a Bill Clinton (D) appointee. Of the court’s 16 active judges, five were appointed by Democrats and 11 by Republicans. Appeals are heard in the Potter Stewart United States Courthouse in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

What comes next?

Neither Thompson nor her attorneys have not said whether they will appeal the decision. The case name and number are Thompson v. Marietta Education Association (19-4217).

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 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 legislative actions have been taken on relevant bills since our last issue.



Vegas police officer files union membership resignation policies lawsuit

Las Vegas police officer files federal lawsuit over union membership resignation policies  

On Aug. 10, a Las Vegas police officer filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada against both her union and the police department, alleging the union’s membership resignation policies violate her First Amendment rights.

Who are the parties to the suit?  

The plaintiff is Melodie DePierro, an officer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Her attorneys are from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which describes itself as a “nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses.”

The defendants are the Las Vegas Police Protective Association (LVPPA) and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Founded in 1947, the LVPPA, an affiliate of the National Association of Police Organizations, represents active and retired police and corrections officers and the Las Vegas Deputy City and Municipal Court Marshals. 

What is at issue?

On Jan. 9, DePierro informed both the LVPPA and the police department of her resignation from the union. DePierro requested that dues deductions from her wages stop immediately. 

Both the LVPPA and the police department denied DePierro’s request. They cited Article 4.1 of the current collective bargaining agreement between the LVPPA and the police department: 

“The [Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department] agrees to deduct from the paycheck of each employee within the bargaining unit who has signed an authorized payroll deduction card such amount as has been designated by the Association as Association dues and is so certified by the treasurer of the Association. … Dues deduction authorization shall be irrevocable for a period of one (1) year and automatically renewed each year thereafter commencing October 1, except that authorization may be withdrawn by an employee during a period of 20 days each year ending October 20.” 

DePierro says she never signed a dues deduction authorization form. Her attorneys say “the restrictive revocation policy, contained in the collective bargaining agreement and as applied to DePierro, prohibits DePierro from exercising her First Amendment right under Janus not to subsidize a labor union and its speech.” 

DePierro’s attorneys are seeking the following from the court: 

  • A declaratory judgment that the policy in question is unconstitutional and that DePierro’s Jan. 9 resignation was valid.
  • An injunction permanently barring the defendants from collecting dues from DePierro. 
  • An order requiring the defendants to reimburse DePierro for all dues deducted from her wages after her Jan. 9 resignation. 
  • A judgement awarding DePierro nominal damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

What are the reactions?

The police department has not publicly responded to the lawsuit, in keeping with its policy not to comment on pending litigation. The LVPPA has also not commented on the suit. 

What comes next?

The case is currently assigned to Judge Gloria M. Navarro, a Barack Obama (D) appointee. No hearings have been scheduled yet. The case name and number are DePierro v. Las Vegas Police Protective Association Metro, Inc., 2:20-cv-01481.

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 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

  • California AB2850: This bill would specify that the Public Employment Relations Board has jurisdiction to enforce statutory provisions governing employer-employee relations within the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee reported favorably Aug. 20. Read second time and ordered to third reading.
  • Virginia HB5021: This bill would prohibit consideration of any action or discussion regarding the hiring, firing, or discipline of a local employee during collective bargaining negotiations. 
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Introduced and referred to House Labor and Commerce Committee Aug. 18.
  • Virginia SB5027: This bill would establish that no local governmental entity is authorized to recognize or collectively bargain with a law enforcement employee union. Effective May 1, 2021, localities would have the authority to recognize such unions if a local ordinance allowing for such recognition is passed.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Senate Commerce and Labor Committee passed by indefinitely Aug. 19.
  • Virginia SB5078: This bill would prohibit municipalities from recognizing any labor union or association as the bargaining agent of any law enforcement agency.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Introduced and referred to Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Aug. 18. Hearing scheduled Aug. 19.


U.S. Supreme Court releases November calendar

The U.S. Supreme Court has released its November argument calendar for the 2020-2021 term. The court will hear eight hours of oral argument in nine cases between November 2 and November 10.

So far, the court has agreed to hear 31 cases during its 2020-2021 term.

November 2, 2020
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club

Salinas v. United States Railroad Retirement Board

November 3, 2020
Jones v. Mississippi

Borden v. United States

November 4, 2020

Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

November 9, 2020
Niz-Chavez v. Barr

Brownback v. King

November 10, 2020

California v. Texas (Consolidated with Texas v. California)

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Reclaim Idaho suspends signature drive after the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Idaho state officials

On July 30, the U.S. Supreme Court put on hold a previous ruling allowing for electronic signatures and delaying a signature deadline. The court ruled in favor of Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) and granted an emergency stay on a lower court’s order until the appeal process is finalized. The lower court’s ruling had allowed Reclaim Idaho, the sponsors of the Idaho Income Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative, to gather signatures electronically and extended the signature deadline.

Reclaim Idaho’s initiative was designed to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000; increase the corporate income tax rate; and create and fund the Quality Education Fund.

In a statement posted to the campaign’s Facebook page, Luke Mayville of Reclaim Idaho said, “We are shocked that the Court has made this extraordinary intervention rather than let the normal appeals process run its course. … Regretfully, we see no other option than to suspend our signature drive.”

Chief Justice Roberts was joined by Justice Alito, Justice Gorsuch, and Justice Kavanaugh in granting the emergency stay that applies to all previous lower court orders in the case. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. The published opinion and dissent did not state how Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan voted. The dissenting judges argued that the Court had intervened too early in the appeal process.

In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “[T]he State is likely to suffer irreparable harm absent a stay. Right now, the preliminary injunction disables Idaho from vindicating its sovereign interest in the enforcement of initiative requirements that are likely consistent with the First Amendment.” He added, “Nothing in the Constitution requires Idaho or any other state to provide for ballot initiatives. And the claims at issue here challenge the application of only the most typical sort of neutral regulations on ballot access.”

In response to the ruling, Governor Little said, “I am pleased that the Supreme Court upheld Idaho’s sovereignty over its election and initiative processes. It is important that initiatives follow the laws set by the Idaho Legislature so we can ensure those initiatives that get on the ballot are legitimate and have significant support throughout Idaho.”

Reclaim Idaho filed the lawsuit back in June arguing that the state’s social distancing restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus had made it impossible for the campaign to collect signatures, and therefore the state violated the petitioners’ First Amendment rights. A U.S. district judge granted Reclaim Idaho a preliminary injunction that gave the campaign 48 more days to gather signatures and temporary permission to use electronic signatures. The governor appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied his emergency stay request but expedited the hearing process. The court is expected to hear oral arguments on August 13.

Thirteen of the 26 states that permit statewide initiative and/or referendum featured at least one lawsuit challenging ballot measure deadlines and signature requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic. The subjects of the lawsuits include the use of electronic signatures, notarization requirements, signature deadlines, and signature requirements.

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California sues Trump administration for changing census procedures

California is challenging a Trump administration effort to exclude people who reside in the United States without legal permission from the census numbers used to allocate congressional districts.

On July 28, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit arguing that the July 21 presidential memorandum entitled “Excluding Illegal Aliens From the Apportionment Base Following the 2020 Census” violates separation of powers principles, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the U.S. Constitution.

Becerra argues that Congress did not authorize President Trump to make the exclusion, and that the U.S. Commerce Department, which governs the U.S. Census Bureau, must first go through APA-required notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures in order to change its rule that census officials must count all persons at the residence where they sleep most of the time.

According to the presidential memorandum, “The Constitution does not specifically define which persons must be included in the apportionment base. Although the Constitution requires the ‘persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed,’ to be enumerated in the census, that requirement has never been understood to include in the apportionment base every individual physically present within a State’s boundaries at the time of the census.” Becerra argues that the policy outlined in the memorandum would deprive California of what he called its rightful share of congressional representatives and depress the 2020 census count.

The memorandum adds that, “The discretion delegated to the executive branch to determine who qualifies as an ‘inhabitant’ includes authority to exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status.” In addition, “Increasing congressional representation based on the presence of aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status would also create perverse incentives encouraging violations of Federal law. States adopting policies that encourage illegal aliens to enter this country and that hobble Federal efforts to enforce the immigration laws passed by the Congress should not be rewarded with greater representation in the House of Representatives.”

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California will now decide whether to block the Trump administration’s new census policy.

Read more about the presidential memoranda and separation of powers here:
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Link to the lawsuit:
Link to the presidential memorandum:


Judicial nominee confirmed to federal district court

On July 28, 2020, the U.S. Senate confirmed David Joseph to a federal judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana by a 55-42 vote. Joseph will join the court upon receiving his judicial commission and taking his judicial oath.

Joseph was nominated to the seat by President Donald Trump (R) on December 2, 2019, to replace Judge Dee Drell, who assumed senior status on November 30, 2017. The nomination was returned to the president at the sine die adjournment of the U.S. Senate on January 3, 2020. The president officially renominated Joseph on January 6. Joseph’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee was held on January 8, 2020, and the committee voted to advance Joseph’s nomination to the full Senate on May 14, by a 12-10 vote.

After Joseph receives commission, the Western District of Louisiana will have:
• No vacancies
• Six Republican-appointed judges

• One Democrat-appointed judge

In addition to Joseph, President Trump has appointed four judges to the court. President George W. Bush (R) appointed one judge to the court, and President Barack Obama (D) appointed one judge to the court.

Since taking office, President Trump has nominated 262 individuals to federal judgeships, 202 of whom have been confirmed. As of July 30, 2020, there were 79 vacancies in the federal judiciary, 49 pending nominations, and three future federal judicial vacancies.

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