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Biden ties Clinton in second-most Article III judicial confirmations through Dec. 1 of a president’s first year since 1981

President Joe Biden (D) has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 28 Article III federal judges through Dec. 1 of his first year in office. 

Since 1901, Biden has made the third-most Article III appointments of any president by this time in office, tied with President Bill Clinton (D). President John F. Kennedy (D) had appointed the most with 56.

The following analysis compares Biden’s confirmations with his immediate predecessors since 1981: 

  1. The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through Dec. 1 of their first year in office is 21.
  2. President Ronald Reagan (R) had the most appointees confirmed with 30. 
  3. President Barack Obama (D) had the fewest confirmations in that time with 11.

The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is one. Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Obama, and Donald Trump (R) had each appointed one Supreme Court justice at this point in their first terms. Presidents George H.W. Bush (R), George W. Bush (R), and Biden had not appointed any.

The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is five. Biden and Trump appointed the most with nine, while Obama and Clinton appointed the fewest with three.

The median number of United States District Court appointees is 13. Clinton appointed the most with 24, and Trump appointed the fewest with six.

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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Monthly tracker: Article III federal judicial nominations by president by days in office since Jan. 2001

Through Dec. 1, 2021, there were 890 authorized federal judicial posts and 78 vacancies. Seventy-four of those vacancies were for Article III judgeships. This report is limited to Article III courts, where appointees are confirmed to lifetime judgeships.

  • In the past month, no new judges have been confirmed.
  • In the past month, 11 new judges have been nominated.

By Dec. 1, 316 days in office, President Joe Biden (D) had nominated 62 judges to Article III judgeships. For historical comparison*: 

  • President Donald Trump (R) had nominated 60 individuals, 35 of which were ultimately confirmed to their positions.
  • President Barack Obama (D) had nominated 29 individuals, 27 of which were confirmed. 
  • President George W. Bush (R) had nominated 104 individuals, 51 of which were confirmed.

*Note: These nomination figures include unsuccessful nominations.

The following data visualizations track the number of Article III judicial nominations by president by days in office during the Biden, Trump, Obama, and W. Bush administrations (2001-present). 

The first tracker is limited to successful nominations, where the nominee was ultimately confirmed to their respective court:

The second tracker counts all Article III nominations, including unsuccessful nominations (for example, the nomination was withdrawn or the U.S. Senate did not vote on the nomination), renominations of individuals to the same court, and recess appointments. A recess appointment is when the president appoints a federal official while the Senate is in recess.

The data contained in these charts is compiled by Ballotpedia staff from publicly available information provided by the Federal Judicial Center. The comparison by days shown between the presidents is not reflective of the larger states of the federal judiciary during their respective administrations and is intended solely to track nominations by president by day.

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Courts block vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, federal contractors

Two federal judges in recent days issued injunctions preventing the enforcement of the Biden administration’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandates for healthcare workers and federal contractors in certain states.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on Nov. 29 issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine requirement for healthcare workers at facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare funds. The injunction applies to the 10 states that challenged the vaccine mandate in court: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. 

Schelp argued that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an executive branch agency housed within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exceeded its authority when it issued the vaccine mandate. “CMS seeks to overtake an area of traditional state authority by imposing an unprecedented demand to federally dictate the private medical decisions of millions of Americans. Such action challenges traditional notions of federalism,” wrote Schelp in the order.

CMS issued a statement in response to the order claiming that unvaccinated healthcare workers threaten patient safety. “Staff in any health care setting who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health. That is why it is critical for health care providers to ensure their staff are vaccinated against COVID-19.”

The following day, U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove of theU.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandate for federal contractors in three states that challenged the mandate: Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. 

Van Tatenhove argued that the mandate exceeded the Biden administration’s authority over federal procurement. “If a vaccination mandate has a close enough nexus to economy and efficiency in federal procurement, then the statute could be used to enact virtually any measure at the president’s whim under the guise of economy and efficiency,” wrote Van Tatenhove in the order.

The Biden administration had yet to respond to Van Tatenhove’s order as of Nov. 30.

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Biden announces two new federal judicial nominees

President Joe Biden (D) announced his intent to nominate two individuals to lifetime Article III judgeships on Nov. 17. With the addition of these two, Biden has nominated a total of 62 individuals to Article III judgeships since the start of his term. To date, 28 of Biden’s nominees have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The two nominees announced on Nov. 17 are:

  1. Andre Mathis, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit
  2. Alison Nathan, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

As of Nov. 17, there were 73 Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary of 870 total Article III judgeships. These judges serve on courts authorized by Article III of the Constitution, which created and enumerated the powers of the judiciary. They are appointed for life terms. A vacancy occurs when a judge resigns, retires, takes senior status, or passes away.

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U.S. Senate confirms two nominees to lifetime federal judgeships

The U.S. Senate on Nov. 1 confirmed two of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to lifetime Article III judgeships:

  1. Beth Robinson, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, by a vote of 51-45
  2. Toby Heytens, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, by a vote of 53-43

To date, 28 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 28 Article III judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate:

  1. President Donald Trump (R) – March 5, 2018
  2. President Barack Obama (D) – June 7, 2010
  3. President George W. Bush (R) – Dec. 20, 2001
  4. President Bill Clinton (D) – Nov. 20, 1993
  5. President George H.W. Bush (R) – April 27, 1990
  6. President Ronald Reagan (R) – Nov. 18, 1981

As of this writing, four Article III nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote from the U.S Senate, six nominees are awaiting a Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance their nominations to the full Senate, and 22 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

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President Biden announces new federal judicial nominees

President Joe Biden (D) announced a new slate of nominees to lifetime Article III judgeships on U.S. circuit and district courts on Nov. 3.

Biden also nominated Kendra Briggs to a non-Article III court, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The Superior Court of D.C. is a trial court of general jurisdiction where judges are appointed to 15-year terms by the president.

Since taking office, Biden has nominated 60 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts. To date, 28 of the nominees have been confirmed.

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Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for Oct. 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies in Article III courts during the month of October through Nov. 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

Three 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 Biden’s inauguration and as of Nov. 1.

New nominations

Biden has announced no new nominations since the September 2021 report.

New confirmations

As of Nov. 1, the Senate has confirmed 28 of Biden’s judicial nominees—19 district court judges and nine appeals court judges—since Jan. 2021.

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Biden has appointed most federal judges through Nov. 1 of a president’s first year

President Joe Biden (D) has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 28 Article III federal judges through Nov. 1 of his first year in office. This is the most Article III judicial appointments through this point in all presidencies since 1981. The Senate had confirmed 11 of President Donald Trump’s (R) appointees at this point in his term.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through Nov. 1 of their first year in office is 13.

  1. The median number of Supreme Court appointees is one. Four presidents (Reagan, Clinton, Obama, and Trump) made one appointment. Three presidents (H.W. Bush, W. Bush, and Biden) had not appointed any.
  2. The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is three. Biden appointed the most with nine. Obama appointed the fewest with one.
  3. The median number of United States District Court appointees is six. Biden appointed the most with 19. Obama appointed the fewest with three.

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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Three nominees confirmed to Article III judgeships

The U.S. Senate on Oct. 26 confirmed three of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to lifetime Article III judgeships:

  1. Jia Cobb, to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, by a vote of 52-45
  2. Patricia Tolliver Giles, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, by a vote of 68-27
  3. Karen McGlashan Williams, to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, by a vote of 56-38

To date, 23 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 23 Article III judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate:

  1. President Donald Trump (R) – Jan. 11, 2018
  2. President Barack Obama (D) – May 5, 2010
  3. President George W. Bush (R) – Dec. 11, 2001
  4. President Bill Clinton (D) – Nov. 20, 1993
  5. President George H.W. Bush (R) – March 9, 1990
  6. President Ronald Reagan (R) – Nov. 18, 1981

As of this writing, five Article III nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote from the U.S Senate, nine nominees are awaiting a Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance their nominations to the full Senate, and 13 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

One nominee, Jennifer Sung, was not reported favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee to the full Senate for a confirmation vote. The committee held hearings on her nomination on Sept. 14 and cast a tie vote on reporting her nomination to the Senate on Oct. 21. The Senate must discharge her nomination from the committee in order for it to be considered. Biden nominated Sung to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on July 13.

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Myrna Pérez confirmed to U.S. circuit court

The U.S. Senate on Oct. 25 confirmed one of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to a lifetime Article III judgeship:

The United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit is one of 13 U.S. courts of appeal. They are the intermediate appellate courts of the federal court system. To learn more about these courts, click here.

Pérez was nominated to the Second Circuit on June 15 to replace JudgeDenny Chin, who assumedsenior status on June 1. Pérez was rated Qualified by a substantial majority and Well Qualified by a minorityof theAmerican Bar Association. To read more about ABA ratings,click here.

To date, 20 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 20 Article III judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate:

As of this writing, seven Article III nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote from the U.S Senate, 11 nominees are awaiting a Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance their nominations to the full Senate, and 13 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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