Tagrobe and gavel

Robe & Gavel: SCOTUS concludes February sitting

Welcome to the Feb. 28 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

… Did you hear something? Could it be… changing seasons approach? The first breaths of spring? One can hope. Last week, President Biden nominated U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. This week, SCOTUS concludes its February sitting, with the March argument session fast approaching. Let’s gavel in and see what’s new on the docket, shall we?

Follow Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribe to the Daily Brew for the latest news and analysis.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Grants

SCOTUS has accepted three new cases to its merits docket since our Feb. 22 issue. 

On Feb. 18, the court granted review in the following cases:

The court accepted Haaland v. Brackeen (Consolidated with Cherokee Nation v. Brackeen, Texas v. Haaland, and Brackeen v. Haaland) the morning of Feb. 28. The case concerns the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), governing the removal of out-of-home placement of American Indian children, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

To date, the court has agreed to hear six cases during its 2022-2023 term. The court has not yet scheduled any of the cases for argument.

In the current 2021-2022 term, the court has agreed to hear 66 cases. Ten have yet to be scheduled for arguments.

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in four cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases: 

Feb. 28

  • West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (Consolidated with North American Coal Corporation v. Environmental Protection Agency, Westmoreland Mining Holdings v. Environmental Protection Agency, and North Dakota v. Environmental Protection Agency) involves the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under the Clean Air Act. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 

March 1

  • Ruan v. United States (Consolidated with Kahn v. United States) concerns whether a physician prescribing controlled substances can be convicted for unlawful distribution of the drugs, regardless of whether the doctor believed they made the prescriptions in good faith. Click here to learn more about the cases’ background details. 
  • Marietta Memorial Hospital Employee Health Benefit Plan v. DaVita, Inc. concerns the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSPA). The MSPA prohibits group health plans from considering a plan participant’s eligibility when the individual has end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and also prohibits plans from providing different benefits to these individuals compared to other covered participants. The case also involves a circuit split over how much plans must reimburse their members for dialysis treatment costs. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 

March 2

In its October 2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 62 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Opinions

SCOTUS issued one opinion since our Feb. 22 edition. The court has issued rulings in nine cases so far this term, two of which were decided without argument. 

In Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP, the court ruled in a 6-3 vote to vacate the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruling and remand the case for further proceedings. The court held that either a mistake of legal or factual knowledge can excuse a copyright registration inaccuracy. Justice Stephen Breyer authored the majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, joined by Justice Samuel Alito in full and by Justice Neil Gorsuch except for Part II.

Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS issued opinions in 1,062 cases, deciding an average of 70 to 90 cases per year.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Feb. 28: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 1: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • March 2: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 3: SCOTUS is expected to issue opinions.
  • March 4: 
    • SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices. 
    • SCOTUS is expected to issue opinions.
  • March 7: SCOTUS will issue orders.

SCOTUS trivia

Justice Stephen Breyer was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994 to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Harry Blackmun. From which court was Justice Breyer elevated?

  1. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  2. U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
  3. U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
  4. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced one new Article III nominee since our Feb. 22 edition.

On Feb. 25, 2022, President Biden announced his intent to nominate U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, to fill the upcoming vacancy upon the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. If confirmed, Jackson will be the first Black woman to serve on the country’s highest judicial body.

The president has announced 83 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee has reported no new nominees out of committee since our Feb. 22 edition. 

Confirmations

The Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our Feb. 22 issue. As of this writing, 46 of President Biden’s Article III nominees have been confirmed since he assumed office.

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 80 vacancies, 78 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of this writing, there were 36 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, there were 38 upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary, where judges have announced their intention to leave active status.

For more information on judicial vacancies during the Biden administration, click here.

Note: This chart is updated at the start of each month with the latest vacancy data from U.S. Courts

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Hello, gentle readers! Let us return to our journey through federal judicial history. Today, we highlight President Chester A. Arthur’s (R) judicial nominees from 1881 to 1885.

During his time in office, the U.S. Senate confirmed 23 of President Arthur’s judicial nominees. One nominee withdrew and one declined their nomination.

Among the most notable appointees were two Supreme Court Justices:

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on March 7 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag, Jace Lington, and Sara Reynolds.



Robe & Gavel: SCOTUS begins February sitting

Welcome to the Feb. 22 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

With the scent of roses yet in the air and the taste of chocolates and sweet treats fresh in our memories, we come to the February argument session of the U.S. Supreme Court. Let’s gavel in, shall we?

Follow Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribe to the Daily Brew for the latest news and analysis.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Grants

SCOTUS has accepted one new case to its merits docket since our Feb. 7 issue. 

On Feb. 18, the court granted review in the case Biden v. Texas, originating from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and concerning both the Administrative Procedure Act and the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also referred to as the remain in Mexico policy, which required non-citizens seeking asylum at the United States’ southern border to remain in Mexico while awaiting their immigration proceedings. The case will be scheduled for argument during this term’s April sitting.

To date, the court has agreed to hear 66 cases for the 2021-2022 term. SCOTUS dismissed four cases after they were accepted and removed one case from the argument calendar after both parties agreed to settle. Ten cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments. The court has also accepted three cases for its 2022-2023 term.

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in three cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases: 

Feb. 22

  • Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas concerns the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act (1987), the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) (1988), gaming regulation on tribal lands, and the sovereign authority of Native American tribal nations. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 
  • Denezpi v. United States involves the Court of Indian Offenses’ jurisdiction, the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy clause prohibiting individuals from being prosecuted for the same crime twice, and the dual-sovereignty doctrine. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 

Feb. 23

In its October 2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 62 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Opinions

SCOTUS has not issued opinions since our Feb. 7 edition. The court has issued rulings in eight cases so far this term, two of which were decided without argument. 

Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS issued opinions in 1,062 cases, deciding an average of 70 to 90 cases per year.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Feb. 18: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices. 
  • Feb. 22: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Feb. 23: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • Feb. 25: SCOTUS will conference. 

SCOTUS trivia

Justice Stephen Breyer authored six majority opinions during the court’s last term. In which of the following cases did he not write the court’s opinion?

  1. Trump v. New York
  2. Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.
  3. AMG Capital Management, LLC v. Federal Trade Commission
  4. Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc.

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced no new Article III nominees since our Feb. 7 edition.

The president has announced 82 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee has reported three new nominees out of committee since our Feb. 7 edition. 

One nominee was not reported favorably:

  • Jessica Clarke, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Confirmations

The Senate has confirmed one new nominee since our Feb. 7 issue.

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 80 vacancies, 78 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of publication, there were 26 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, there were 37 upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary, where judges have announced their intention to leave active status.

For more information on judicial vacancies during the Biden administration, click here.

Note: This chart is updated at the start of each month with the latest vacancy data from U.S. Courts

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Hello, gentle readers! Welcome back to our journey through federal judicial history. Today, we get a two-for-one as we highlight President Grover Cleveland’s (D) judicial nominees from 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897.

During his time in office, the U.S. Senate confirmed 44 of President Cleveland’s judicial nominees—17 in his first term, and 27 in his second term. Two nominees were withdrawn. The Senate rejected or did not vote on eight nominees.

Among the most notable appointees were four Supreme Court Justices:

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on Feb. 28 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag, Jace Lington, and Sara Reynolds.



Robe & Gavel: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for February 1

Welcome to the Feb. 7 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

Much of the country may be experiencing a cold winter, but the pages inside our newsletter are hot this week with lively judicial activity, including a big announcement from a SCOTUS justice. Let’s gavel in and get warm.

Stay up to date on the latest news by following Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Noteworthy court announcements

Here’s a quick roundup of the court’s most recent noteworthy announcements since the Jan. 18 edition of Robe & Gavel:

Justice Stephen Breyer to retire at end of court’s 2021-2022 term

On Jan. 27, Justice Stephen Breyer announced his intent to retire at the end of the court’s current term, provided his successor has been nominated and confirmed by that time. The court typically begins its summer recess in late June or early July. Breyer and President Joe Biden (D) spoke at the White House following the official announcement. Biden said he would nominate a new justice in February and intended to nominate a Black woman who, if confirmed, would be the first Black woman to serve on the court. 

Justice Breyer has served on the Supreme Court since 1994. He was nominated by President Bill Clinton (D) and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 29, 1994. Breyer was previously a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

Grants

SCOTUS has accepted one new case to its docket for the current term and three cases for its 2022-2023 term since our Jan. 18 issue.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

2021-2022 term

2022-2023

To date, the court has agreed to hear 65 cases for the 2021-2022 term. SCOTUS dismissed four cases after they were accepted and removed one case from the argument calendar after both parties agreed to settle. Nine cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments. The court has also accepted three cases for its 2022-2023 term.

Arguments

The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments this week. The court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments for its February sitting on Feb. 22. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Opinions

SCOTUS has issued two rulings since our Jan. 18 edition. The court has issued rulings in eight cases so far this term, two of which were decided without argument. 

Click the links below to read more about the court’s opinions:

On Jan. 20, the court issued a ruling in Hemphill v. New York. The case concerned a criminal defendant’s constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him. 

In an 8-1 opinion, SCOTUS held that the state trial court violated Hemphill’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him when it admitted a written transcript of a former defendant’s plea hearing into evidence without making that defendant available at Hemphill’s trial for cross-examination. The court reversed the New York Court of Appeals’ decision and sent the case back to the state court for further proceedings. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the court’s majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, writing that he believed the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

On Jan. 24, the court ruled in Hughes v. Northwestern University. The case concerned defined-contribution retirement plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). 

In an 8-0 ruling, the court overturned the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. It held that the lower courts erred in dismissing the ERISA plan participants’ suit because the courts did not properly consider an ERISA fiduciary’s duty to continually monitor plan investments. Justice Sotomayor delivered the court’s opinion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the decision due to her involvement in the case as a judge on the 7th Circuit.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Feb. 18: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • Feb. 22: SCOTUS begins its February argument sitting.

SCOTUS trivia

Justice Stephen Breyer joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994. Which justice did Breyer replace on the court?

  1. Thurgood Marshall
  2. Byron White
  3. William Renquist
  4. Harry Blackmun

Choose an answer to find out!

The Federal Vacancy Count

The Federal Vacancy Count tracks vacancies, nominations, and confirmations to all United States Article III federal courts in a one-month period. 

The January report covers nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from Jan. 2 through Feb. 1. 

Highlights

  • Vacancies: There were five new judicial vacancies covered in this report. There were 79 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 81 of 890 active federal judicial positions were vacant.  
  • Nominations: There were eight new nominations. 
  • Confirmations: There were five new confirmations.

Vacancy count for February 1, 2022

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies in the federal courts, click here.

*Though the U.S. territorial courts are named as district courts, they are not Article III courts. They are established by Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Click here for more information.

New vacancies

Five judges left active status since the December report, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies. The president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial positions. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies in the United States Courts of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of Feb. 1, 2022.

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) announced eight new nominations since the December report.

Biden has announced 82 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

The U.S. Senate confirmed five nominees since the previous report.

As of Feb. 1, 2022, the Senate had confirmed 45 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—32 district court judges and 13 appeals court judges.

Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)

  • The average number of judicial appointees per president through Feb. 1 of the second year is 29.
  • President Joe Biden (D) made the most appointments through Feb. 1 of his second year with 45, followed by President Ronald Reagan (R) with 41. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 15.
  • President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments through four years with 234. President Reagan made the fewest through four years with 166.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on this list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on Feb. 22 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Brittony Maag compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Kate Carsella and Jace Lington.



Robe & Gavel: SCOTUS begins second week of January sitting

Welcome to the Jan. 18 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

This week, we commemorate the life and acts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by reading his speeches, sermons, and engaging in acts of service. We thank you for spending some of your time with us as we gavel in and catch up on the federal judiciary.

Follow Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribe to the Daily Brew for the latest news and analysis.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Noteworthy court announcements

Court schedules oral arguments in COVID vaccine-related emergency appeals

On Jan. 13, the court issued per curiam opinions on both of the Biden administration’s COVID-19-related vaccine policies that came to the court on emergency appeals on Dec. 22. SCOTUS blocked enforcement of one mandate and allowed enforcement of the other while litigation continues in lower courts. 

In National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor (consolidated with Ohio v. Department of Labor), the court blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 vaccination-or-test mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees. Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented from the order.

In Biden v. Missouri (consolidated with Becerra v. Louisiana), the court allowed the administration’s mandate requiring health care employees who work in Medicare and Medicaid-funded programs to go into effect. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett dissented.

Grants

SCOTUS has accepted eight new cases to its merits docket since our Jan. 10 issue. 

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

  • United States v. Washington concerns state workers’ compensation laws and intergovernmental immunity. 
  • Siegel v. Fitzgerald involves the constitutionality of a law imposing different fees on Chapter 11 debtors based on the district in which the bankruptcy is filed. 
  • Kemp v. United States concerns the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure governing court procedure in civil cases. 
  • George v. McDonough involves the administrative state and veteran’s benefits claims.
  • Kennedy v. Bremerton School District involves First Amendment protections of religious expression.
  • Vega v. Tekoh involves whether a plaintiff may sue a police officer for violating their federal civil rights based on the officer’s failure to provide Miranda warnings.
  • Nance v. Ward concerns the procedure by which an inmate may challenge the state’s method of execution for their sentencing.
  • Shoop v. Twyford concerns evidentiary determinations for habeas petitions. 

To date, the court has agreed to hear 59 cases for the 2021-2022 term. SCOTUS dismissed four cases after accepting them and removed one case from the argument calendar after both parties agreed to settle. Eleven cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments.

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in four cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases: 

Jan. 18

Jan. 19

In its October 2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 62 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Opinions

SCOTUS issued one opinion since our Jan. 10 edition. The court has issued rulings in six cases so far this term, two of which were decided without argument. 

Click the links below to read more about the case:

Jan. 13

Babcock v. Kijakazi originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and was argued before the court on Oct. 13, 2021.

The case: David Babcock was a dual-status technician with the National Guard who participated in the Civil Service Retirement System (“CSRS”) and paid Social Security taxes on qualifying income. Upon retiring, Babcock applied for Social Security retirement benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) granted Babcock’s application but reduced his benefits since he also received CSRS pension payments. Babcock asked the SSA to reconsider, citing the Social Security Act uniformed services exception and arguing that his pension plan was covered. The SSA did not change its determination and on appeal, the determination was upheld. Babcock sought judicial review with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The court ruled that his uniformed service did not qualify under the exception. On appeal, the 6th Circuit affirmed the decision. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.

The outcome: The U.S. Supreme Court court affirmed the 6th Circuit in an 8-1 ruling, holding that Babcock’s civil-service pension payments were not based on his service as a member of a uniformed service. Justice Barrett delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion.

Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS issued opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 decided cases per year.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Jan. 18: 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
    • SCOTUS will release orders.
  • Jan. 19: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Jan. 21: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices. 
  • Jan. 24: SCOTUS will release orders.

Federal court action

Nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced no new Article III nominees since our Jan. 10 edition.

The president has announced 73 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee has reported five new nominees out of committee since our Jan. 10 edition.

Confirmations

The Senate has confirmed one new nominee since our Jan. 10 issue.

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 78 vacancies, 76 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of publication, there were 26 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, there were 34 upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary, where judges have announced their intention to leave active judicial status.

For more information on judicial vacancies during the Biden administration, click here.

Note: This chart is updated at the start of each month with the latest vacancy data from U.S. Courts

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Hello, gentle readers! Welcome back to our journey through federal judicial history. Today, we make a stop in the Gilded Age to highlight President Benjamin Harrison’s (R) judicial nominees from 1889 to 1893.

During his time in office, the U.S. Senate confirmed 43 of President Harrison’s judicial nominees. The Senate did not vote on two of Harrison’s nominees.

Among the most notable appointees were four Supreme Court Justices:

By the end of his first year in office, two of President Harrison’s nominees had been confirmed. One nominee was confirmed to a U.S. district court and one was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back next month on Feb. 7, 2022, with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag and Jace Lington.



Robe & Gavel: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for January 1

Welcome to the Jan. 10 edition of Robe & Gavel, our first for 2022. Robe & Gavel is Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

I hope your robe is fleece-lined and your gavel comes with a warm mug of cheer. Let’s gavel in, shall we?

Stay up to date on the latest news by following Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Noteworthy court announcements

Here’s a quick roundup of the court’s most recent noteworthy announcements since the Dec. 6 edition of Robe & Gavel:

Court schedules oral arguments in COVID vaccine-related emergency appeals

  • Dec. 22-30, 2021: SCOTUS scheduled special hearings in cases for Jan. 7, 2022, to consider whether the government can enforce the Biden administration’s vaccine policies during ongoing lower court litigation. 

One line of appeals, in the cases National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Department of Labor and Ohio v. Department of Labor, concerns the mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees, commonly referred to as the vax-or-test mandate

The other line of appeals, in cases Biden v. Missouri and Becerra v. Louisiana, concerns the Biden administration’s request for permission to enforce a rule requiring health care workers participating in federal Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated. Lower court rulings blocked the mandate in approximately half of the states. 

Grants

SCOTUS has accepted six new cases to its merits docket since our Dec. 6 issue. 

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

To date, the court has agreed to hear 56 cases for the 2021-2022 term. SCOTUS dismissed four cases after they were accepted and removed one case from the argument calendar after both parties agreed to settle. Eight cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments.

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in five cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

Jan. 10

Jan. 11

Jan. 12

In its October 2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 62 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Opinions

SCOTUS has issued two rulings since our Dec. 6 edition. The court has issued rulings in five cases so far this term, two of which were decided without argument. 

Click the links below to read more about the court’s opinions:

On Dec. 10, 2021, the court issued rulings in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson and United States v. Texas. Both cases concerned Texas state law S.B. 8 that restricts abortion procedures after six weeks of pregnancy and authorizes private citizens to bring civil actions against individuals for aiding a patient with getting an abortion.

In Whole Woman’s Health, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the U.S. district court’s order denying motions to dismiss the case, and remanded the case for further proceedings. SCOTUS held that lawsuits filed before the law has been enforced could proceed against certain defendants but not others. 

In an 8-1 decision authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court held that abortion providers may sue state licensing officials in federal court to prevent the state law’s enforcement under Ex parte Young’s (1908) sovereign immunity doctrine exception. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented. 

The court also issued a 5-4 ruling that abortion providers could not sue state judges and clerks to block them from trying private lawsuits related to S.B. 8. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett were in the majority, and Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented. The court noted that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of S.B. 8 itself.

In a per curiam decision, the court dismissed United States v. Texas from its merits docket as improvidently granted, meaning that the court ruled that it should not have taken up the case. 

Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS released opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 decided cases per year.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Jan. 10: 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
    • SCOTUS will release orders.
  • Jan. 11: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Jan. 12: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • Jan. 14: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

The Federal Vacancy Count

The Federal Vacancy Count tracks vacancies, nominations, and confirmations to all United States Article III federal courts in a one-month period. The December report covers nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from Dec. 2 through Jan. 1. 

Highlights

  • Vacancies: There were nine new judicial vacancies covered in this report. There were 74 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 76 of 890 active federal judicial positions were vacant.  
  • Nominations: There were 11 new nominations. 
  • Confirmations: There were 12 new confirmations.

Vacancy count for January 1, 2022

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies in the federal courts, click here.

*Though the U.S. territorial courts are named as district courts, they are not Article III courts. They are established by Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Click here for more information.

New vacancies

Nine judges left active status since the Dec. 1 report, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies. The president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial positions. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies in the United States Courts of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of Jan. 1, 2022.

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) announced 11 new nominations since the Dec. 1 report.

Biden has announced 73 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

There were 12 new confirmations since the previous report.

Since January 2021, the Senate has confirmed 40 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—29 district court judges and 11 appeals court judges.

Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)

  • The average number of judicial appointees per president through Jan. 1 of the second year is 26.
  • President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through his first year with 41, followed by President Joe Biden (D) with 40. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.
  • President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments through four years with 234. President Reagan made the fewest through four years with 166.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on this list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back next year on Jan. 18, 2022, with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag and Jace Lington.



Robe & Gavel: SCOTUS begins December sitting

Welcome to the Nov. 30 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

The year 2021 may be waning, but court activity is certainly waxing! SCOTUS has issued its first opinion in an argued case and published the first argument calendar of the new year. Let’s gavel in, shall we?

Stay up to date on the latest news by following Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Noteworthy court announcements

On Nov. 17, SCOTUS released the January argument calendar, scheduling eight cases between Jan. 10 and Jan. 19:

Jan. 10

Jan. 11

Jan. 12

Jan. 18

Jan. 19

Grants

SCOTUS has accepted two new cases to its merits docket since our Nov. 8 issue: 

To date, the court has agreed to hear 50 cases for the 2021-2022 term. SCOTUS dismissed four cases after they were accepted and removed one case from the argument calendar after both parties agreed to settle. Nine cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments.

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in four cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

Nov. 29

Nov. 30

Dec. 1

In its October 2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 62 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Opinions

SCOTUS issued one ruling since our Nov. 8 edition. It was the first opinion for the 2021 term in an argued case. The court decided two non-argued cases, Rivas-Villegas v. Cortesluna and City of Tahlequah, Oklahoma v. Bond, on Oct. 18.

Nov. 22 

In Mississippi v. Tennessee, argued during the October sitting, the court unanimously dismissed the state of Mississippi’s complaint, holding that the groundwater aquifer at issue was subject to the judicial remedy of equitable apportionment. This means each state has an equal right to use the waters at issue.

The case concerned groundwater access rights between Mississippi and Tennessee and came to the court under its original jurisdiction, as it was a dispute between states. 

To date, the court has issued decisions in three cases. Two cases were decided without argument. Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS issued opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Nov. 29: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • Nov. 30: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Dec. 1: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • Dec. 3: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

SCOTUS trivia

Since 1901, how many presidents have had a Supreme Court nominee confirmed in their first year in office? 

  1. Five
  2. Seven
  3. Ten
  4. Twelve

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced two new Article III nominees since our Nov. 8 edition.

The president has announced 62 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee has held hearings on four new nominees since our Nov. 8 edition.

Confirmations

The Senate has not confirmed any nominees since our Nov. 8 issue. 

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 78 vacancies, 74 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of publication, there were 34 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, there are 35 upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary, where judges have announced their intention to leave active judicial status.

For more information on judicial vacancies during President Biden’s term, click here.

Note: The above chart is updated at the start of each month.

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Hello, gentle readers! Grab your favorite stuffed bear and settle in for another stop in our journey through federal judicial history. Today, we visit the years between 1901 and 1909, highlighting President Theodore Roosevelt’s (R) federal judicial nominees. Bully for us!

During his time in office, the U.S. Senate confirmed 78 of President Roosevelt’s judicial nominees. The Senate rejected eight nominees. Three nominees were withdrawn.

Among the most notable appointees were three Supreme Court justices:

By the end of his first year in office, two of President Roosevelt’s nominees had been confirmed. Both nominees were confirmed to U.S. District Courts. 

Roosevelt averaged 9.5 judicial appointments per year. For comparison, President Jimmy Carter (D) had the highest average from 1901 to 2021 with 65.5 appointments per year.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on Dec. 6 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out!



Robe & Gavel: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for November 1

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Robe & Gavel for Nov. 8! As you may recall from our previous edition, this newsletter has transformed from its previous name, Bold Justice. But don’t touch that dial! We’re still bringing you all the latest on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S. Let’s gavel in, shall we?

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Grants

SCOTUS has accepted three new cases to its merits docket since our Nov. 1 issue: 

To date, the court has agreed to hear 48 cases for the 2021-2022 term. SCOTUS dismissed three cases after they were accepted and removed one case from the argument calendar after both parties agreed to settle. Fifteen cases have yet to be scheduled for arguments.

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in five cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

Nov. 8

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga concerns the state-secrets privilege. Three Southern California residents who practice Islam filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government, alleging the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) paid a confidential informant to surveil Muslims based solely on their religious identity for more than a year as part of a counterterrorism investigation. Plaintiffs alleged that the program included unlawful searches and anti-Muslim discrimination. The U.S. government asserted the state-secrets privilege and moved to dismiss the case. The district court dismissed all but one of the plaintiffs’ claims. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.
    • The question presented: “Whether Section 1806(f) displaces the state-secrets privilege and authorizes a district court to resolve, in camera and ex parte, the merits of a lawsuit challenging the lawfulness of government surveillance by considering the privileged evidence.”
  • Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP concerns copyright infringement claims. In 2011, fabric design corporation Unicolors, Inc. (“Unicolors”) registered copyrights for a group of 31 designs, nine of which were “confined” designs, reserved for specific customers’ exclusive use. In 2015, clothing retailer and designer H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP (“H&M”) sold apparel using a design that Unicolors later alleged in U.S. district court infringed on its copyrighted designs. A jury found H&M liable for willful infringement. H&M appealed to the 9th Circuit, claiming Unicolors’ copyright registration included false information. The 9th Circuit ruled that Unicolors’ copyright application had known inaccuracies, reversed the district court’s judgment, and remanded the case for further proceedings. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 
    • The question presented: “Did the Ninth Circuit err in breaking with its own prior precedent and the findings of other circuits and the Copyright Office in holding that 17 U.S.C. § 411 requires referral to the Copyright Office where there is no indicia of fraud or material error as to the work at issue in the subject copyright registration?”

Nov. 9

  • United States v. Vaello-Madero concerns the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause as it applies to residents of Puerto Rico. The residents were denied benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program of the Social Security Act. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 
    • The question presented: “Whether Congress violated the equal-protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by establishing Supplemental Security Income-a program that provides benefits to needy aged, blind, and disabled individuals-in the 50 States and the District of Columbia, and in the Northern Mariana Islands pursuant to a negotiated covenant, but not extending it to Puerto Rico.”
  • Ramirez v. Collier involves what type of aid a spiritual advisor may provide to an individual during a death penalty execution. Click here to learn more about the case’s background. 
    • The questions presented: 
      • “(1) Under the Free Exercise Clause and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc–2000cc–5 (2000), does the State’s decision to allow Ramirez’s pastor to enter the execution chamber, but forbidding the pastor from laying his hands on his parishioner as he dies, substantially burden the exercise of his religion, so as to require the State to justify the deprivation as the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling governmental interest?
      • “(2) Under the Free Exercise Clause and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc–2000cc–5 (2000), does the State’s decision to allow Ramirez’s pastor to enter the execution chamber, but forbidding the pastor from singing prayers, saying prayers or scripture, or whispering prayers or scripture, substantially burden the exercise of his religion, so as to require the State to justify the deprivation as the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling governmental interest?”

Nov. 10

In its October 2020 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 62 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Opinions

SCOTUS has not issued any rulings in merits docket cases since our Nov. 1 edition. To date, the court has issued decisions in two cases—Rivas-Villegas v. Cortesluna and City of Tahlequah, Oklahoma v. Bond—both of which were decided without argument in per curiam rulings. A per curiam ruling is an unsigned opinion of the court as a whole.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Nov. 8: 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
    • SCOTUS will issue orders.
  • Nov. 9: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Nov. 10: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • Nov. 12: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • Nov. 15: SCOTUS will issue orders.

SCOTUS trivia

Welcome, readers, to a special round of Name That Chief Justice Era! Based on the following clue, identify which SCOTUS Chief Justice era the description belongs to:

During ______’s tenure on the Court, he [created] new precedents for how to protect the United States and deal with enemies on United States soil. Though the ______ Court is remembered for constitutional questions decided, it was also marked by discord among the justices of the court.

  1. The Vinson Court
  2. The Warren Court
  3. The Hughes Court
  4. The Stone Court

Choose an answer to find out!

The Federal Vacancy Count

The Federal Vacancy Count tracks vacancies, nominations, and confirmations to all United States Article III federal courts in a one-month period. The October report includes nominations, confirmations, and vacancies through November 1.

Highlights

  • Vacancies: There have been four new judicial vacancies since the September 2021 report. There are 74 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, 78 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.  
  • Nominations: There have been no new nominations since the September 2021 report. 
  • Confirmations: There have been 14 new confirmations since the September 2021 report.

Vacancy count for November 1, 2021

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies in the federal courts, click here.

*Though the U.S. territorial courts are named as district courts, they are not Article III courts. Rather, they are Article IV courts. Click here for more information.

New vacancies

Four judges left active status since the previous vacancy count, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies. The president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial positions. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies in the United States Courts of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of November 1, 2021.

New nominations

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

Biden has announced 60 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on January 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

There have been no new confirmations since the September 2021 report. Cumulatively, the Senate has confirmed 28 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—19 district court judges and nine appeals court judges—since January 2021.

U.S. circuit courts:

U.S. district courts:

  • Lauren King, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington
  • Tana Lin, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington

The first confirmations occurred on June 8, 2021, when Julien Xavier Neals and Regina Rodriguez were confirmed to their respective courts. 

Ketanji Brown Jackson was the first confirmed nominee to receive her judicial commission. The Senate confirmed Jackson on June 14, 2021, and she was commissioned three days later on June 17.

Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)

  • Presidents have made an average of 13 judicial appointments through Nov. 1 of their first year in office. 
  • President Biden has made the most appointments, 28, while President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest appointments with five.  
  • President Ronald Reagan’s (R) 41 appointments were the most through a first year. President Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.
  • President Donald Trump’s (R) 234 appointments were the most appointments through four years. President Reagan made the fewest through four years with 166.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on this list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Hello, gentle readers! Our journey through federal judicial history continues as we visit the presidency of a future (the tenth) SCOTUS chief justice! Today, we highlight President William Howard Taft’s (R) federal judicial nominees from 1909 to 1913.

During his time in office, the U.S. Senate confirmed 61 of President Taft’s judicial nominees. The Senate did not vote on 13 of Taft’s nominees. Five nominees were withdrawn.

Among the most notable appointees were six Supreme Court Justices:

President Taft’s first Article III appointee was confirmed on March 16, 1909—John Wesley Warrington was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. By the end of his first year in office, 10 of Taft’s nominees had been confirmed–two to U.S. circuit courts, and eight to U.S. district courts. 

Taft averaged 14.5 judicial appointments per year. For comparison, President Jimmy Carter (D) had the highest average from 1901 to 2021 with 65.5 appointments per year.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on Nov. 29 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag, Jace Lington, and Sara Reynolds.