TagJudicial appointments

Patricia Guerrero joins California Supreme Court

Patricia Guerrero was sworn in to the California Supreme Court on March 28, 2022. Founded in 1849, the California Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. Of the seven current justices, five were appointed by Democratic governors and two by a Republican governor. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appointed Guerrero on Feb. 15, 2022, to a seat on the California Supreme Court to replace Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2021, to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmed Guerrero’s appointment on March 22, 2022, and she was sworn in on March 28. Prior to joining the court, Guerrero was a judge of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One from 2017 to 2022.

The seven justices of the California Supreme Court are selected by gubernatorial appointment. The state bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominee Evaluation recommends candidates to the governor after examining their qualifications and fitness. If they wish to retain their seat for the remainder of the unexpired term, newly-appointed judges are required to participate in yes-no retention elections occurring at the time of the next gubernatorial race, which is held every four years. After the first election, subsequent retention elections are for full 12-year terms.

California is one of 46 states to fill supreme court vacancies via a form of gubernatorial appointment. Illinois fills vacancies via the state supreme court, while Louisiana uses the special election method. Virginia and South Carolina fill vacancies through legislative elections. 

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Arizona redistricting commission approves new congressional districts

Congress is in session

Both the House and Senate are in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the second session of the 117th Congress.

Forty-seven members of Congress—six members of the U.S. Senate and 41 members of the U.S. House—have announced they will not seek re-election. Thirty-two members—six senators and 26 representatives—have announced their retirement. Five retiring Senate members are Republicans and one is a Democrat, and of the retiring House members, 20 are Democrats and six are Republicans.

SCOTUS is out of session

The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments next week. To learn about the 2021-2022 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

On Monday, Biden traveled from New Castle, Delaware, to the White House.

On Tuesday, Biden received the Weekly Economic Briefing.

On Wednesday, Biden held a press conference.

On Thursday, Biden met with members of the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force to discuss delivering results from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

On Friday, Biden did not have any events scheduled.

Federal Judiciary

  • 79 federal judicial vacancies
  • 32 pending nominations
  • 33 future federal judicial vacancies

Upcoming Article III Judicial Vacancies

According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 33 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships. The earliest vacancy announcement was on Jan. 22, 2021, when U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Ellen Hollander announced she would assume senior status upon the confirmation of her successor. The most recent was on Jan. 12, 2022, when U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit Judge Gregg Costa announced that he would retire on Aug. 5, 2022. Twenty-two vacancy effective dates have not been determined because the judge has not announced the date they will leave the bench. The next upcoming vacancy will occur on Feb. 14, 2022, when U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Judge Virginia Phillips assumes senior status. 

For historical comparison, on Jan. 23, 2021, there were 49 federal judicial vacancies and five upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary reported by the U.S. Courts.

Arizona redistricting commission approves new congressional districts

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission voted 3-2 in favor of the state’s new congressional district boundaries. The commission’s nonpartisan chairwoman joined the group’s two Republican members in voting in favor of the map, and the commission’s two Democratic members were opposed. The commission previously voted in favor of the congressional map by a 5-0 vote on Dec. 22, 2021, which was followed by a period for counties to request administrative changes before the final vote on Jan. 18.

The commission is responsible for drawing both congressional and state legislative district lines and is composed of five members. Of these, four are selected by the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the state legislature from a list of 25 candidates nominated by the state commission on appellate court appointments. The fifth member of the commission must belong to a different political party than the other commissioners.

At the time of the map’s enactment, Democrats held five U.S. House seats in Arizona, and Republicans held four. The Arizona Republic‘s Ray Stern wrote, “The new map, should it withstand legal challenges, favors Republicans in five — and possibly six — of the state’s nine districts.”

Kentucky adopts new congressional map after legislature overrides gubernatorial veto

Kentucky adopted new congressional district boundaries on Jan. 20 after the general assembly overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) veto of legislation establishing the state’s new congressional map. Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 3 —the congressional redistricting legislation —on Jan. 19. The vote to override the governor’s veto was 26-8 in the state Senate, with 23 Republicans and three Democrats voting in favor and five Democrats and three Republicans opposing it. The override vote was 64-24 in the state House, with all votes in favor cast by Republicans. Twenty-one Democrats and three Republicans voted to sustain Beshear’s veto.

In his veto statement, Gov. Beshear wrote, “I am vetoing Senate Bill 3 because it was drafted without public input and reflects unconstitutional political gerrymandering…Plainly, this map is not designed to provide fair representation to the people of Kentucky and was not necessary because of population changes.”

After Beshear’s veto, Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne (R) issued a statement that said, in part, “We are disappointed that the Governor has chosen to again veto lawfully enacted legislation. He is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law, and he knows it. This proposal meets all legal considerations. We will use our legislative authority to override this veto.”

Senate Bill 3 was introduced on Jan. 4 with the Senate voting in favor, 28-4, on Jan. 6 and the House approving, 65-25, on Jan. 8.

Twenty-eight U.S. senators running for re-election, six retiring

With Sens. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) and John Thune’s (R-S.D.) recent announcements that they will seek re-election, all incumbent senators up for re-election in 2022 have made their decisions. Twenty-eight senators are seeking re-election—15 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Six senators are retiring—five Republicans and one Democrat. This is the highest number of Republicans not seeking re-election since at least 2012. 

In every election cycle within that time until the current one, either two or three Republican senators did not seek re-election. The number of retiring Democrats has ranged from zero to six.

The six open races in 2022 are in Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Republicans hold the Senate seat in all states except Vermont. Three of the open Senate races—in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio—have at least one competitive rating (Toss-up, Tilt Republican, or Lean Republican) from three election forecasters.

Our battleground Senate races list currently consists of eight states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Democrats and Republicans each hold four of the battleground seats going into the elections.

Democrats have an effective majority in the Senate, with each party holding 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris (D) serving as the tie-breaking vote.

Looking back at Joe Biden’s first year in office

One year ago, Joe Biden (D) assumed office as the 46th president of the United States. Here’s a closer look at the first year of his administration:

  • Biden issued 77 executive orders, 46 presidential memoranda, 195 proclamations, and 26 notices. Biden’s 77 executive orders issued in his first year is higher than the average number of executive orders issued each year by other recent presidents. Donald Trump (R) issued 55 on average each year, Barack Obama (D) issued 35, and George W. Bush (R) issued 36.
  • We tracked five pieces of key legislation proposed before Congress during Biden’s first year, two of which he has signed into law. Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law on March 11, 2021. The bill aimed to provide economic relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second key bill that became law was the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which provided funds to build new infrastructure, invest in Amtrak, and repair and replace bridges, among other things. Biden signed the bill into law on November 15, 2021.
  • Since taking office, Biden has nominated 81 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts. As of January 20, 2022, 42 of the nominees have been confirmed. The monthly federal vacancy count report from January 1 said 11 of Biden’s confirmed judges were for the U.S. Court of Appeals, while 29 were for the U.S. District Courts. At the same point during previous presidential administrations, Trump had appointed 19 federal judges, Obama had appointed 13, and W. Bush had appointed 28.
  • During Biden’s first year, he issued no presidential pardons or commutations. During fiscal year 2017, Trump issued one pardon and no commutations. Obama and W. Bush issued no pardons or commutations during the first fiscal year of their presidencies.


President Biden announces two circuit court nominees

President Joe Biden (D) announced his intent to nominate two individuals to federal circuit courts on Dec. 23:

To date, Biden has nominated 73 individuals to Article III federal judgeships. Forty of the nominees have been confirmed. There were 67 Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary as of Dec. 23.

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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



Oklahoma Gov. Stitt appoints state supreme court justice

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) appointed Dana Kuehn to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on July 26. The appointment filled a vacancy on the court caused by former Justice Tom Colbert’s retirement on Feb. 1. Kuehn is Stitt’s third nominee to the nine-member supreme court.

Under Oklahoma law, state supreme court justices are selected by the governor with help from a nominating commission. The nominating commission puts forward a list of three names from which the governor chooses the appointee. The appointed judge serves an initial term of at least one year before standing for retention in the next general election.

Before her appointment to the supreme court, Kuehn served as a judge on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. She was appointed to that seat in 2017. From 2006 to 2017, Kuehn was a Tulsa County associate district judge. Prior to becoming a judge, she worked as a Tulsa County district attorney and as an attorney in private practice with Steidley & Neal, PLLC. Kuehn earned a B.A. in political science from Oklahoma State University and a J.D. from the University of Tulsa College of Law.

With her appointment to the supreme court, Kuehn became the first woman to serve on both of Oklahoma’s high courts.

In 2021, there have been 14 supreme court vacancies in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. To date, 12 of those vacancies have been filled.

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Governor Brian Kemp appoints new state supreme court justice, public service commissioner

Governor Brian Kemp (R) appointed Verda Colvin to the Georgia Supreme Court and Fitz Johnson to the Georgia Public Service Commission on July 20 and 21, respectively. Colvin will fill the vacancy left by Justice Harold Melton, who retired on July 1 of this year, while Johnson will take former Commissioner Chuck Eaton’s position. Governor Kemp appointed Eaton to the Fulton County Superior Court on July 20. 

Founded in 1845, the Georgia Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has nine judgeships. The current chief of the court is David Nahmias. As of July 2021, Republican governors appointed seven judges (eight once Colvin is sworn in) on the court and one was initially selected in a nonpartisan election. Judges are selected using the nonpartisan election of judges system. They serve six-year terms. When an interim vacancy occurs, the seat is filled using the assisted appointment method of judicial selection with the governor picking the interim justice from a slate provided by the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission. 

The Georgia Public Service Commission is a quasi-executive, quasi-legislative state body responsible for regulating Georgia’s public utilities: electric, gas, telecommunications, and transportation firms. The commission is composed of five popularly elected members who serve staggered, six-year terms. If a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement to serve until the next general election. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson must win election in November 2022 to serve the remainder of Eaton’s term, which expires in 2024.

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Gov. Brian Kemp fills vacancy on Georgia Supreme Court

Georgia GovernorBrian Kemp (R) appointed Verda Colvin to theGeorgia Supreme Court on July 20. Colvin was Kemp’s third nominee to the nine-member court.

Colvin succeededHarold Melton, who retired on July 1. Chief Justice Melton joined the Georgia Supreme Court in 2005. He was appointed to the court by Gov. Sonny Perdue (R).

Prior to her appointment to the state supreme court, Colvin served as a judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals. Kemp appointed her to that court on March 27, 2020. Colvin was previously a judge with the Macon Circuit of the 3rd Superior Court District of Georgia. She was appointed to that court by Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on March 24, 2014. Prior to becoming a superior court judge, she was an attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In 2021, there have been 14 supreme court vacancies in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements. To date, 11 of the vacancies have been filled.

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New Mexico governor appoints Briana Zamora to fill vacancy on state supreme court

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) appointed Briana Zamora to the New Mexico Supreme Court on July 16. The appointment filled a vacancy on the court caused by former Justice Barbara J. Vigil’s retirement on June 30. Zamora is Gov. Lujan Grisham’s fourth nominee to the five-member supreme court.

Under New Mexico law, midterm state supreme court vacancies are filled through assisted gubernatorial appointments, where the governor selects a nominee based on recommendations from a judicial nominating commission. Appointees serve until the next general election, in which they must participate in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the remainder of the unexpired term.

Briana Zamora previously served as a judge on the New Mexico Court of Appeals from 2018 until her appointment to the state supreme court. She served as a district court judge from 2013 to 2018 and as a metro court judge from 2009 to 2013. Prior to becoming a judge, Zamora worked as an attorney in private practice, as an assistant state attorney general, and as an assistant district attorney. She earned an undergraduate degree in government and psychology from New Mexico State University and a J.D., with honors, from the University of New Mexico School of Law.

In 2021, there have been 14 supreme court vacancies in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. To date, 10 of those 14 vacancies have been filled.

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Kathryn Hackett King appointed to Arizona Supreme Court

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) appointed Kathryn Hackett King to the state supreme court on July 8. The seat became vacant in April when former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Andrew W. Gould retired. King is Gov. Ducey’s sixth nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

At the time she was appointed, King was a partner at the law firm of BurnsBarton PLC. From 2015 to 2017, King served as Gov. Ducey’s deputy general counsel. She previously practiced law at Snell & Wilmer LLP. After graduating from law school, King clerked for former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Michael D. Ryan from 2007 to 2008. 

A newly-appointed justice must stand for retention in the next general election after two years to remain on the court. That means King must run for retention in 2024. If retained, King will then begin a six-year term on the bench.

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Arizona Supreme Court

State Supreme Court Vacancies, 2021



Governors appoint new supreme court justices in two states

Alaska and Arizona have new state supreme court justices after appointments from their respective governors. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed Jennifer Stuart Henderson to the Alaska Supreme Court on July 7, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Kathryn Hackett King to the Arizona Supreme Court on July 8.

Alaska

A seat on the Alaska Supreme Court became vacant when former Chief Justice Joel Bolger retired on June 30, 2021. Gov. Dunleavy selected Jennifer Stuart Henderson for the seat from a list of three finalists forwarded by the Alaska Judicial Council (AJC). Henderson is Gov. Dunleavy’s second nominee to the five-member supreme court.

On July 1, Dunleavy asked the AJC to reconsider its list of nominees and put forward a new slate to fill the vacancy. However, under the council’s bylaws, it may not reconsider nominees that have been sent to the governor except in specific circumstances. Ultimately, Dunleavy appointed Henderson from the original slate of three names put forward by the AJC.

Prior to her appointment to the supreme court, Henderson served as a judge on the Alaska superior court. She was appointed to the superior court in 2012 by former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R). Her career experience also includes working as an assistant district attorney in Anchorage and as an attorney in private practice with the law firm of Farley & Graves. After law school, she served as a clerk for former Alaska Supreme Court Justice Warren Matthews. Henderson earned a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Arizona

A seat on the Arizona Supreme Court became vacant when former Justice Andrew W. Gould retired on April 1, 2021. Gov. Ducey selected Kathryn Hackett King for the seat from a slate of nominees put forward by the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. King is Gov. Ducey’s sixth nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Before her appointment to the supreme court, King was a partner at the law firm of BurnsBarton PLC. She also served as a member of the Arizona Board of Regents. From 2015 to 2017, King served as the deputy general counsel to Gov. Ducey. She previously practiced law at Snell & Wilmer LLP. After graduation from law school, King clerked for former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Michael D. Ryan from 2007 to 2008. She is the fifth woman in Arizona history to serve on the state supreme court.

King earned a B.A. in political science from Duke University and a J.D. from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

In 2021, there have been 14 supreme court vacancies in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. To date, nine of those 14 vacancies have been filled.

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