The Unexpected Opportunity – Assessing the Landscape of Judicial Vacancies

While the Georgia runoff still awaits, as of the writing of this article, Democrats have defied political history and maintained their razor-thin Senate majority past the midterm elections. With the loss of the House, Democrats are unlikely to pass transformative legislation in the next two years, freeing the Senate to prioritize nominations (where the House has no role). Court watchers will likely welcome this, as, despite historic successes with their razor-thin majority, the Biden Administration has little time to rest if it intends to fill a sizeable proportion of the 100+ lower court vacancies currently pending in the federal judiciary. Currently, there are sixteen circuit court vacancies and ninety-seven district court vacancies pending (including seats announced to be vacated but currently still full). In comparison, 56 judicial nominees are currently before the senate, twelve to circuit courts and 44 to district courts. As the Biden Administration and Senate Democrats turn to nominations and confirmations, it’s useful to look again at the current landscape.

As a reminder, the process for choosing circuit and district court nominees is fairly different. After the practice of requiring blue slips for appellate nominees was terminated during the Trump Administration, the Administration is under no obligation to secure pre-approval from home state senators before the nominee can receive a hearing. However, in practice, the Administration is still incentivized to consult with home state senators, which can slow down the nomination process, particularly in states with Republican senators.

Unlike circuit court vacancies, district court seats still require home state approval in order to be confirmed. This means that the ball is largely in the senators’ court in terms of naming nominees. This doesn’t mean that the Administration is completely absent from the process. It is still responsible for prodding senators, negotiating agreements, and choosing the right candidate. In fact, the Administration started right off the gate with an announcement that it expected recommendations for vacancies within 90 days of the announcement. This makes it all the more surprising the sheer number of district court seats that sit without nominees today.

This split is less surprising in states that only have Republican Senators, a group which includes thirty-five district court vacancies without nominees: six in Florida; five in Texas; three in Indiana and Louisiana; two each in Alabama, Missouri and Oklahoma; and one each in Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. Many of the home state senators in these states have been fairly open about their unwillingness to work with the Administration on a nominee. However, others have been more willing to be involved, with Iowa senators, for example, recommending U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Locher, a young Democrat, to the bench (Locher was swiftly and unanimously confirmed). The lone district court nominee in a 2-Republican state is also the most recent, Scott Colom in Mississippi.

Similarly, in states with split delegations, the White House understandably needs to move with the support of home state Republican senators. It has had mixed luck in the states it has tried this with. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman returned blue slips for three nominees who were confirmed (one more remains pending). Similarly, the White House was able to reach a four nominee deal with Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania that included a nominee of his choice. In contrast, Sen. Ron Johnson has chosen to block a nominee that he previously signed off on.

Perhaps the most surprising in terms of vacancies without nominees are blue states or territories, where Democratic senators would presumably be incentivized to send recommendations quickly: yet, sixteen district court vacancies from blue states are nomineeless today, including four from California, three from New Jersey, two each from Connecticut, Illinois, and Michigan, and one each from Colorado, Maryland, and New York. A summary of this landscape follows:

D.C. Circuit – 1 vacancy out of 11 judgeships (one nominee pending)

The so-called “second highest court in the land”, the D.C. Circuit was the site of Biden’s first appointee when Jackson was confirmed to the court last June, a mere two months after her nomination. However, since that haste, a second vacancy languished for more than a year, taking nearly nine months after Judge David Tatel announced his departure from active status before Judge Michelle Childs was nominated, and taking Childs eight months to be confirmed. Jackson’s elevation to the Supreme Court reopened another vacancy, and the White House moved more quickly, elevating U.S. District Judge Florence Pan (confirmed in September). A fourth nominee, Brad Garcia remains pending on the Senate floor to fill the last remaining vacancy on the court, vacated by Judge Judith Ann Wilson Rogers.

The only district court that reports to the D.C. Circuit is the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The 15-judgeship court has one current vacancy, from Pan’s elevation, and one future vacancy, with Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly taking senior status upon confirmation of a successor. Nominees are pending for both vacancies with Ana Reyes currently awaiting a floor vote and Judge Todd Edelman having received a Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

First Circuit – 2 vacancies out of 6 judgeships (one nominee pending)

The smallest court of appeals in the country was also the sole geographically-based court not to see a single Trump appointment. Biden has already named Judge Gustavo Gelpi and Public Defender Lara Montecalvo to the court. Additionally, reproductive rights attorney Julie Rikelman is pending a vote before the Senate Judiciary Committee to replace Judge Sandra Lynch. The final seat, based in New Hampshire, was vacated by Judge Jeffrey Howard nearly nine months ago, and lacks a nominee. Given that New Hampshire has two Democratic senators, the lack of a nominee is puzzling.

The district courts covered by the First Circuit have five pending judicial vacancies, all of which have nominees. The District of Massachusetts has three current vacancies and three nominees pending, two of whom already have hearings.

The District Court for the District of Puerto Rico is down two judges, with nominees to fill the seats already on the Senate floor. A final Senate vote on Judge Camille Velez-Rive is expected next week, which should leave Judge Gina Mendez-Miro as the sole pending P.R. nominee.

Second Circuit – 1 vacancy out of 13 judgeships (one nominee pending)

Having replaced five left-leaning judges on the Second Circuit, the Biden Administration has already had a significant impact on the court. However, Justice Maria Araujo Kahn, nominated to replace 81-year-old conservative Jose Cabranes, remains pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee and has a long line of nominees ahead of her to be confirmed.

Connecticut, which saw three Biden appointees hit the bench last year, is one of the worse blue states when it comes to nomineeless vacancies, with two of the eight active judgeships vacant and no nominees on the horizon.

Meanwhile, the district courts in New York are also shortstaffed, with nine vacancies among them. The hardest hit is the Eastern District of New York, which has four vacancies out of sixteen judgeships, The bright side for the White House is that eight of the nine vacancies have nominees pending. The down side is that only three of the nominees are currently on the Senate floor (with one, Anne Nardacci, expected to be confirmed next week). Two of the longer pending nominees, Southern District of New York picks Dale Ho and Jessica Clarke, are currently bottled up in Committee, pending a discharge vote. Three more await hearings.

Third Circuit – 2 vacancies out of 14 judgeships (two nominees pending)

This moderate court currently has one Biden nominee confirmed (Arianna Freeman nominated to replace Judge Theodore McKee) but Judges Thomas Ambro and Brooks Smith don’t have replacements yet although nominees are pending on the Senate floor for both seats and should, if prioritized, be confirmed easily.

Two of the three states covered by the Third Circuit have judicial vacancies. The biggest number are in Pennsylvania, which has seven vacancies, four of which have nominees, the aforementioned four nominee deal. With Democrat John Fetterman replacing Toomey, it is likely that new recommendations will be sent out for the remaining vacancies and they will likely not be confirmed in the next few months.

The District of New Jersey, vacancy-ridden when the Biden Administration came to office, is now down to three seats left to fill. However, none of the three vacancies have nominees pending even though the oldest dates back seven months. With control of the Senate solidified, it is likely that New Jersey will see new district court nominees shortly.

Fourth Circuit – 2 vacancies out of 15 judgeships (one nominee pending)

The Fourth Circuit currently has vacancies out of South Carolina and Maryland. Judge DeAndrea Benjamin, nominated to the South Carolina seat, has home state senator support and will likely be confirmed easily in the new Congress. However, the bigger surprise is that a Maryland vacancy announced last December still lacks a nominee. Maryland’s Democratic senators have a mixed record in the speed of recommendations and a district court vacancy in the state announced last year also lacks a nominee.

In other states, Virginia has two nominees pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a final vote. Their confirmations would fill all the remaining vacancies on the state’s district courts.

Additional vacancies exist in North Carolina and South Carolina. Both North Carolina and South Carolina have two Republican senators, so any nominee will largely depend on the White House’s negotiations.

Fifth Circuit – 2 vacancies out of 17 judgeships (one nominees pending)

The ultra-conservative Fifth Circuit became even more so when the youngest Democrat on the Fifth Circuit, Judge Gregg Costa, unexpectedly announced his resignation from the bench. Nine months after Costa’s announcement, there is still no nominee pending to replace him, although Judge Dana Douglas, nominated to replace Octogenarian liberal James Dennis, is poised for confirmation after bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee.

On the district court level, both Louisiana and Texas have multiple district court vacancies and no hint of any nominee. Mississippi, on the other hand, despite having only one vacancy, does have a nominee: Scott Colom. While Mississippi senators have not yet announced support for Colom, they have not expressed opposition either, suggesting that Colom might be, surprisingly, on track for confirmation.

Sixth Circuit – 1 vacancies out of 16 judgeships (one nominee pending)

Of the three vacancies on the Sixth Circuit that opened in the Biden Administration, only the Ohio based seat of Judge R. Guy Cole remains open. Rachel Bloomekatz, nominated to replace Cole, is awaiting a discharge vote in the Judiciary Committee. It remains to be seen if Sen. Sherrod Brown will push for Bloomekatz to receive a final Senate vote by the end of the year.

On the district court level, each of the four states under the Sixth Circuit have vacancies pending. After the White House’s proposal to nominate conservative lawyer Chad Meredith to the Eastern District of Kentucky fell through, there remains no nominee to replace Judge Karen Caldwell, although Caldwell has reaffirmed that she will only leave the bench if a conservative is appointed to replace her.

The Eastern District of Michigan has four pending vacancies and two nominees (one on the Senate floor). Michigan’s Democratic senators have been relatively slow in naming nominees, so it’s unclear when nominees will hit the Senate for the remaining vacancies.

The Southern District of Ohio has a single vacancy, with a nominee, Jeffery Hopkins, pending a Judiciary Committee vote. With Sen. Rob Portman set to be replaced by J.D. Vance, it is possible that Democrats will prioritize Hopkins in an effort to fill the seat before Vance’s input is needed.

Finally, a vacancy is pending on the Western District of Tennessee. The White House and Tennessee Senators battled over the Sixth Circuit nomination of Andre Mathis, and while the White House ultimately won confirmation, other seats could become casualties. Nonetheless, the White House has put forward U.S. Attorney nominees with senatorial support in the state, suggesting that some common ground can be reached to fill the vacancy.

Seventh Circuit – 2 vacancies out of 11 judgeships (one nominee pending)

In addition to naming Judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi and Judge John Lee to the Seventh Circuit, Biden has the chance to add two more judges to the court. Judge Doris Pryor, currently pending on the senate floor, is likely to be confirmed before the end of the year. However, the second vacancy, opened by Judge Michael Kanne’s death, lacks a nominee. Given the support Indiana’s Republican Senators gave to Pryor, the White House is likely to grant them deference in turn in cchoosing a nominee to replace Kanne.

On the district court level, Illinois nominees Lindsay Jenkins and Colleen Lawless are pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Northern District of Illinois has two more vacancies that are likely to get nominees shortly.

Meanwhile, three vacancies are pending in Indiana without nominees. It is likely that the White House may lump these nominees into a package with the Kanne seat to allow for all the seats to be filled at once.

Wisconsin is likely a sign of frustration for the White House as Senator Ron Johnson has now blocked both a federal judge nominee and a U.S. Attorney nominee that he previously signed off on. With Johnson’s narrow re-election, it is likely that the nomination of Judge William Pocan is dead, and the White House and senators will have to renegotiate a new nominee to replace Judge William Griesbach.

Eighth Circuit 0 vacancies out of 11 judgeships

While the Eighth Circuit remains the sole court of appeals not to see a vacancy open under Biden, there are a number of vacancies open in the district courts covered under the Circuit, including one each in Arkansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota, and two pending in Missouri. Of these, only the seat in Minnesota has a nominee (Jerry Blackwell, who is awaiting a floor vote). Of the remaining vacancies, the White House has failed to nominate any U.S. Attorneys in those states, boding poorly for the likelihood of any agreement on judicial nominees.

Ninth Circuit – 1 vacancies out of 29 judgeships (one nominee pending)

Compared to other courts of appeals, the White House has had comparative success in confirming judges to the Ninth Circuit, naming six, with a seventh pending a judiciary committee vote. The district courts covered by the Ninth Circuit were equally successful for the White House, which has already confirmed 19 judges to (compared 14 judges that the Trump Administration named over four years).

An additional 13 nominees are currently pending to fill 19 vacancies, eight in California, four in Washington, and one in Oregon. Of the seats needing nominees, four are in California (two on the Central District and two on the Southern District). Another two are in Alaska and Idaho respectively, which have two Republican senators apiece.

Tenth Circuit – 1 vacancy out of 12 judgeships (one nominee pending)

The Kansas seat vacated by Judge Mary Briscoe is the oldest appellate vacancy in the country. Judge Briscoe announced her move to senior status in January 2021, and a nominee, Jabari Wamble, was announced in August 2022. Wamble has yet to have a Committee hearing but could, in theory, be confirmed early next year.

Among the states covered by the Tenth Circuit, there are eight district court vacancies, out of which two have nominees. Five of the six nomineeless vacancies are in states with two Republican senators, with particularly long-pending vacancies in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Utah, in particular. Given the nomination of Wamble in Kansas and the successful confirmation of Trina Higgins to be U.S. Attorney in Utah, it is possible that the White House is able to reach an agreement with senators to fill the vacancies shortly.

Eleventh Circuit – 1 vacancy out of 12 judgeships (one nominee pending)

Judge Beverly Martin announced her retirement from the Eleventh Circuit in July, ultimately leaving the court in late September. The Biden Administration nominated civil rights attorney Nancy Abudu to the court in December, but then unwittingly delayed Abudu’s hearing by quixotically claiming that she was under Supreme Court consideration. While no serious observer believed that Abudu would be nominated to the Supreme Court, her consideration ensured that Abudu’s nomination would not be processed until a nominee was named. Furthermore, Abudu’s nomination proved deeply controversial and deadlocked in Committee, forcing a discharge vote that has yet to occur. Given the risk to Abudu’s nomination if Warnock were to lose, it is likely that Democrats would seek to prioritize her nomination if the runoff went poorly.

On the district court level, Alabama has two pending vacancies, one from the elevation of Judge Andrew Brasher in the Trump Administration, and the second from Judge Abdul Kallon’s untimely resignation. Both lack nominees as outgoing Republican senator Richard Shelby expressed his opposition to any left-of-center nominee. With Shelby’s retirement and the election of Katie Britt to the Senate, it remains to be seen if a package can be reached (it’s possible that Alabama senators may demand the renomination of Trump nominee Edmund LaCour.

Meanwhile, Florida has more nominee-less vacancies than any other state: six. Both Senator Marco Rubio and Florida’s Democratic House delegation recommended attorney Detra Shaw-Wilder (a Democrat) to the Southern District of Florida last year, but no nominee has hit the Senate yet. The recent announcements of U.S. Attorney nominees to two of the three open positions in Florida, however, could presage a thaw in negotiations over the state’s appointments.

Conclusion

On one side, one could argue that the Senate has plenty of time to fill these vacancies, as well as more that will inevitably open over the next two years. After all, despite a packed legislative calendar, the Senate has already confirmed eighty-five nominees (and will likely confirm more before the end of the Congress). However, it’s also important to recognize the fragility of the Democrat’s narrow majority. Just because 50 members held together over the last two years is no guarantee that it will last another two. In a sense, winning the Georgia runoff and securing a 51st seat will be all the more important for Democrats if they seek to rival Trump’s judicial legacy.

47 Comments

  1. Here are my thoughts on the article itself;

    1. The 16 district court vacancies from blue states that don’t have a nominee absolutely need nominees for ALL of the seats by the end of March. That way the administration can focus on red & purple states along with vacancies that open up from today on. The California vacancies are particularly disheartening to see & need to be filled.

    2. I think there are some red states that we can get some negotiations & nominees for. I think there is a good chance Alaska, Idaho & South Carolina could get nominees next year.

    3. I think there are some states that Biden will go his entire term without a nominee unless either Durbin alters his blue slip policy or is The White House names Republicans or conservatives in package deals (I would personally rather the seats remain vacant). I think those states include Florida, Texas, Missouri & Arkansas.

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  2. A great summarization of where we are as we near the end of Biden’s first two years. As others have noted, there is a lot of work to be done even with few of the Democrats main policies getting through the Republican controlled house.

    Of the states with at least one Republican senator and a current or future district court vacancy, which ones do you all think are the least likely to see a nominee in the next two years (since I seriously doubt the Democrats are getting rid of blue slips in any realistic scenario)? I’d probably go with Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana as the most likely states, although Wisconsin with Johnson is also one to me where the chances are quite low.

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  3. I’ll go one court at a time. In Arkansas, state judge Cindy Thyer would be an obvious nominee for District Court Judge. Her husband was U.S. Attorney for Eastern Arkansas during the Obama Administration. She recently got elected to the state Court of Appeals after serving years on Craighead County Circuit Court.

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  4. With regard to eastern Wisconsin, there are two experienced judges in the mix, Thomas Walsh and and Tammy Houck. They would be the easiest to confirm.

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  5. I don’t rule out nominees coming out of Texas. Ted Cruz worked in good faith with the Biden Administration to find nominees for U.S. Attorney. The package was so satisfactory, Dequan found himself saying nice things about it.

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    • So for me, I wouldn’t rule out nominees from red states like Texas or Florida. I just don’t want any deals in which we have to put a Chad Meredith like judge on the bench.

      If it’s a deal like the Ohio or Pennsylvania packages in which we saw reasonable Republican picks, then that’s fine. I’m not confident we will get that kind of deal out of either of those two states. If not, then we have to ask ourselves will this administration put conservatives on the bench to get deals. I think the answer to that is yes. I’m hoping the answer will be no however… Lol

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  6. On to Western Louisiana. Stephanie Finley was U.S. Attorney there during the Obama Administration. She seems to be confirmable. Is Biden saving her for the Fifth Circuit instead?

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  7. Going to Utah, IMHO, Magistrate Judge Cecilia Romero is someone to watch. I don’t know much about her.

    It was speculated that moderate District Judge Robert Shelby could be nominated by a Democratic White House to join the Tenth Circuit. If that happens, perhaps Romero could join District Court. Look for lots of negotiation with Mitt Romney, who’s worked in good faith with Democrats in the past.

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  8. Now Wyoming. Newly appointed Magistrate Judge Stephanie Hambrick is a name to watch IMHO. I had speculated on another Magistrate Judge, Teresa McKee, but progressives may balk at her age.

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  9. In Alaska, how far with Democrats go to thank Lisa Murkowski for her willingness to cross party lines? She wanted Trump to appoint Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth, but Trump chose someone younger and more conservative. If she broaches the name with Biden, will he sign off on it?

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  10. From what I see in California, there are only three district court seats without a nominee, which will change by next month as I expect there to be nominees at some point in December.
    By March, hopefully all of those seats will be filled, along with the ones in NY and CT.
    As for the red and purple state vacancies, I forsee Idaho’s senators playing ball with their vacancy given that it’s a judicial emergency, with Alaska and possibly South Dakota senators doing the same.
    The rest though..not likely at all and as you said, unless Durbin changes the blue slip policy, I forsee those seats staying vacant.
    So be it.

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  11. I agree with you on your selections Mitch, especially on Utah.
    If Scott Matheson Jr. takes senior status (he’s the only Obama judge on the 10th Circuit that can do so) Robert Shelby would be the front runner to replace him, thus opening a spot up for Romero.
    As for Alaska, I imagine whatever name Murkowski suggests for Biden is the name we’ll see be nominated, just have to see if Sen. Sullivan would play ball.

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    • After Senator Sullivan suggested he needed to interview all 9th circuit nominees regardless of what state they are from, I don’t expect him to play ball too much. I’m so happy Durbin shit that ridiculous request down. I still can’t believe he got one of the GOP senators in the SJC (I believe it was senator Tillis if I remember correctly) to say that with a straight face.

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  12. Durbin has been far more effective then others would have been as judiciary chair.
    Makes me wish he had been the judiciary chair in the past.
    I don’t think George W nor Trump would have had many Circuit Court nominations as they did with him at the helm.
    I know I should stop harping on it since it can’t be undone but after Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch, Patrick Leahy is the person most responsible for the Circuit Courts we have now, and all because he clung to the hopes of returning to an bipartisan era in the Senate that was gone and never coming back.
    That stupidity will have horrible long term consequences for so many of us and I just can’t look past that when it comes to his legacy.

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    • I would put Patrick Leahy even ahead of Orrin Hatch for responsibility for the judiciary we have today. I was actually hoping President Obama would privately ask him to step down at the height of his popularity in his first year. But I understand the dynamics of being the first Black president plus the almost unilateral focus on The Health Care bill.

      But I am happy to see Murkowski re-elected. And even though it’s the House, I’m really happy to see Peltola elected to a full term as well. I still don’t know how a red state like Alaska passed Rank Choice voting, but I thank God they did. I wish they would push it in other states as well.

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      • Nevada is nice but we need more red states to go to rank choice voting. I mean without it, Alaska would have Sarah Palin as it’s at large congresswoman & & a Trump backed US senator. I wonder how many other red states would have a real good chance at a Democrat if moderate Republican in place of the current conservatives if they had Rank Choice voting. I could see Ted Cruz sweating in Texas with it.

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  13. Haven’t checked on this blog for a bit, but I’ve never been more glad to be wrong about Republicans flipping the Senate – Dems really pulled off a miracle, and hopefully they can continue their lucky streak and win the Georgia runoff. If they can get a 51-seat majority, I hope they’ll move faster than they did these last two years.

    I’m not as tuned into district court vacancies outside of the major cities, as I strongly believe all the energy should be on (1) encouraging eligible Democratic-appointed COA judges to go senior, and (2) filling their seats. No need to get all worked up about abolishing blue slips to fill vacancies in Western Louisiana or Northern Florida or whatever until we have no other vacancies to fill (which, given the pace of this administration/Senate, is unlikely in just 2 years).

    On that note, I’m less optimistic than others on this blog that we’ll see a sudden rush of appellate judges going senior. The judges who cared about preserving their legacy/having an ideologically-aligned successor have already gone senior (ex. Wood on CA7, Berzon & W. Fletcher on CA9). The ones who are still active are less likely to care/more likely to have non-political reasons for staying active, and I honestly think Biden should be calling them personally to encourage them to go senior (the Trump administration was definitely pushing some conservative judges to go senior).

    Here’s how I would group the 15 Democratic COA appointees who can go senior before now and 2024 (excluding Fed. Circ. b/c that’s less political):

    More likely: Kayatta (CA1), Greenaway (CA3), Gregory (CA4), Wynn (CA4), Graves (CA5), Stranch (CA6), Matheson (CA10)
    – these judges are all pretty liberal, and most of them only became eligible to go senior late enough in 2022 that their successor was unlikely to be confirmed before the midterms (though to be fair, so did Hamilton on CA7 and he announced early). Gregory is pretty liberal but is the chief until 2023, so I don’t think he’ll go senior before then but seems likely to do it afterward. Kayatta becomes eligible in 2023, and seems liberal enough that he might go senior right when he becomes eligible.

    Maybe: Stewart (CA5), Moore (CA6), Clay (CA6), Wardlaw (CA9), Gould (CA9), Wilson (CA11)
    – the Clinton appointees who were eligible to go senior at the beginning of the Biden administration, but haven’t done so yet. Most of them are pretty liberal (though Gould is more centrist and I don’t know much about Wilson) so maybe they will soon, but some judges just like being active or don’t care about their successors (wild, I know).

    Probably not: King (CA4), Rawlinson (CA9)
    – King and Rawlinson have announced that they want to decide their successors, and I can’t see them going back on that so quickly.

    I’d be surprised if any of the Republican appointees willingly go senior in the next two years. Rovner (CA7) seems the most likely given that she’s pretty liberal, but rumor has it that she won’t do it for other reasons. None of the others seem likely from an ideological point of view, but I guess you never know.

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    • @Hank

      Welcome back. And yes, let’s hope Georgia can come through one more time & send Warnock back to be the 51st Democrat. I mean for God sakes, Walker doesn’t even live in the state.

      Good analysis. I do think we will get some GOP circuit court retirements albeit probably for other reasons then just to go senior. I too think Rovner would be the most likely to do so willingly.

      And I absolutely would not give in to King and Rawlinson. As I’ve said before you can’t set that precedent & start letting judges base their retirement on picking their successors, so I agree with you on those two.

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  14. While Barrack Obama did have some missteps on the courts (he should have started nominations much earlier)
    I do agree that as the first Black president he had to play nice with Leahy and others the way Bill Clinton and Joe Biden (when the former had full Senate control) didn’t have to.

    As to future circuit court vacancies on the Republican side, it’s possible Rovner is like Jose Cabranes of the 2nd (most conservative Democrat on the bench today) in that even though she is out of step with most judicial nominees from the Republican Party of today, she still feels loyalty to it and thus doesn’t want a Democrat picking her replacement.

    Finally, on King and Rawlinson, I am 100% okay with Biden and Trump/Pence with Kanne (who would have thought I’d ever say that) on holding the line in telling judges that no, they don’t get to demand one person replaces them or else.

    That especially applies to Rawlinson. Given what we saw in CO this week and the increasing attack on LGBT rights, the last thing the LGBT community and their allies needs is a judge who has shown herself to be against the community picking her replacement.
    Even though I don’t believe Berna Rhodes-Ford is homophobic, I’m still not going to trust the judgement of someone who is.

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  15. Anybody from the NY area or in general that knows anything about these seven possibilities? Gov. Hukul really needs to get this pick right after all the Cuomo picks.

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  16. There is vacancy in the Middle District in Alabama. I believe that the White House wants to nominate Magistrate Judge Jerusha Adams. Outgoing Senator Richard Shelby IMHO was willing to sign off, but only in exchange for a concession on a vacancy in the Northern District Court. I’m guessing the White House so far is unwilling to compromise on this.

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    • I’m happy The White House hasn’t compromised to put any extremist or ultra conservatives on the bench in exchange for liberals. I never liked those type of deals when Democrats have the majority. The deals made in Ohio & Pennsylvania are fine but any Chad Meredith type deals should be rejected. I’d rather leave the seats vacant unless maybe it’s too sweet of a deal to pass up such as 4 young progressives in exchange for one Republican pick.

      I heard the other day Karen Caldwell reintegrated she will not retire unless she is replaced by a conservative. Those are the type of judges that can stay on the bench until there is another Republican president & senate or until they pass away. No deal

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    • @GloFish

      We actually spoke about something Donald last year on this site. I pointed out Jennifer Nou, who was being considered for the 7th circuit, was a member of the Federalist Society. @Shawn pointed out that the person I wanted for the seat was himself a member of them too. He stated often times they want liberals to speak at their functions & be members. So I initially thought the same thing as you but that alone shouldn’t disqualify them.

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  17. I guess it depends what their other memberships and activities are.
    If their membership with the Federalist Society overlaps with other conservative groups etc. giant red flag that they shouldn’t be considered for anything.

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  18. There are two vacancies in the Central California District, dominated by Los Angeles, which have no nominees. Why not Magistrate Judge Steve Kim, a Democrat and Korean immigrant who’s an expert on cybersecurity issues? He’s already been vetted after having been nominated before.

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    • I’m sure Los Angeles has better options than a 51 year old magistrate judge that was good enough to be a Trump appointee. I don’t think they have to worry about nominees that have already been vetted with Dems holding the majority. I would rather Mr. Kim be renominated for another 8 years as a magistrate judge or let Newsome put him on a state court.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. While I’m at it, the same situation exists in the Southern District of California, dominated by San Diego. Longtime AUSA Shireen Matthews has already been vetted and is a Democrat who’s well qualified and would add diversity to the bench.

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  20. In a prior thread, I had speculated that Christine Van Aken of the San Francisco Superior Court would be nominated by Biden for northern California. A few years ago, she angered several locals when she released a homeless man who attacked a woman outside of an apartment complex. The victim suffered nerve damage and there was a local movement to remove Van Aken from criminal cases.

    I guess that Biden nominated Rita Lin in part to avoid the controversy.

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  21. New York Court of Appeals

    Corey Stoughton is my choice! Hochul has had a chance to nominate her for a seat on this court last year but pass her over. Now, Hochul gets a second chance to make her the top judge!

    Abbe Gluck would be a good pick. it’s not everyday you meet someone who’s both a medical doctor and an attorney!

    Edwina Richardson-Mendelson and Anthony Cannataro are non-starters for me. Two old judges won’t cut it.
    Worse is Cannataro’s conservatism on New York’s court. I really hope that Hochul doesn’t let his acting chief judge title influence her to pick him. She needs a clean break from the Cuomo years now that she’s won election in her own right. Elevating a Cuomo judge won’t give her that clean break.
    Richardson-Mendelson should make the most of her Deputy Chief Administrative Judge position.

    Hector LaSalle has serious administrative chops, a necessity for NY’s sprawling and convoluted court system. But again, 55 is too old and he’s not exactly a progressive.

    Alicia Ouellette, the third near-60 year old candidate on the list, no thank you.

    Jeffrey Oing. Seriously. Someone who left college before I was born should be looking forward to a nice retirement now, not additional service on any high court.

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    • @Gavi

      Thank you for the detailed explanation on each possible nominee. This seat is very important as we just saw in the midterms with NY basically handing Republicans the House majority.

      As for the nominees, I agree Corey Stoughton seems like she would be the best out of those on the list. I’m still not thrilled with most on the list however. Anthony Cannataro (and for that matter any other Cuomo appointee) names should immediately be thrown in Hocul’s nearest trash can. I’d rather the seat remain vacant. I actually don’t think Hocul will chose him.

      I think with her naming a black woman for her other appointment, near 60 year old Edwina Richardson-Mendelson won’t be chosen either. I’m not well versed in New York law but if Hocul really wants to make an impact, she will change the commission that gives her the names in the first place. They really just need to change it so the governor can just pick who she wants.

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  22. I do hope the recent horror in CO doesn’t make end up making Cannataro the permanent chief judge.
    Even though he’s gay, he’s shown himself to be in the Patrick Bumatay mold, in that rulings benefits the type of people that want to hurt the community he is a part of among others.
    Someone that like has no business being the chief judge on the court.
    Can’t do anything about him staying on the court until his term is up but we can make darn sure someone progressive is the replacement for DINO Difoire as chief judge and not him.

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  23. I’m hoping Hochul and the Democratic supermajority put their foots down and make clear that Corey Stoughton is the nominee and that in the future, nominees that are more conservative then not are no goes.

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  24. The SJC site has the nominations hearing posted for this Wednesday but there is no executive business meeting posted for Thursday. They usually post hearings & meetings a week in advance. Even though Thursday is 5 days away, I’m hoping they haven’t posted it yet because of the Thanksgiving holiday. There are three circuit court & nine district court nominees pending a final SJC vote so I’m hoping they can vote on them this Thursday.

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