Federal Courts, Empty Benches:The Wednesday Vacancy Count 3/7/2012
- For a District by District break down, see: Federal Court Vacancy Warning System
The current vacancy warning level for the U.S. District courts is set at Blue. This past week, one confirmation and one vacancy have kept the total even. The final tally leaves 81 vacancies or approximately 9.3% of the total Article III posts currently unfilled. The vacancy information for the various court levels is as follows:
|(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)|
|More than 40%|
|Supreme Court||0% or no vacancies|
|Appeals Courts||9% or 16 vacancies|
|District Courts||9.6% or 65 vacancies|
There are currently 9 Supreme Court posts, 179 appellate court posts and 680 district court posts for a total of 868 Article III judges. This count includes four temporary posts, one each in the Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Southern District of Florida and the Central District of California. This also includes a shared post between the two Missouri districts and counts it as two posts with separate vacancies.
Eastern District of Washington
On Tuesday, March 6, Thomas Rice was confirmed by the United States Senate to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington with a vote of 93-4.  Rice was originally appointed by Barack Obama to the post on June 29, 2011 to fill the seat vacated by Robert Whaley. At the time of appointment, Rice was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. He was rated Substantial Majority Qualified, Minority Not Qualified by the American Bar Association. He had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee on September 20, 2011 and you can find his Committee Questionnaire Available Here and his Questions for the Record Available Here. The confirmation fills one of two vacancies on the court of four, lowering the vacancy warning level from Red to Yellow.
Central District of California
On March 1, 2012, Valerie Baker Fairbank assumed senior status after serving on the United States District Court for the Central District of California for five years. Fairbank was appointed in 2007 by George W. Bush. Prior to service on the federal bench, Fairbank served as a judge for the Los Angeles County California Superior Court. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Fairbank graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara with her Bachelor's degree in 1971 and then a Master's degree in 1972. Fairbank received her J.D. from the University of California Los Angeles Law School in 1975. Her transition to senior status creates the third vacancy on the court of twenty-eight, raising the vacancy warning level from Blue to Yellow.
On February 29, 2012 President Barack Obama nominated two individuals to district court judicial posts. Obama commented on the nomination, stating, "“I am honored to put forward these highly qualified candidates for the federal bench. They will be distinguished public servants and valuable additions to the United States District Court.” 
Middle District of Florida
Obama nominated Brian J. Davis to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida to fill the seat vacated by Richard Lazzara. Davis currently serves as a judge for the Florida Fourth Circuit Court and has held the post since a 1994 appointment. Davis was born in Jacksonville, FL on January 28, 1953. He received his B.A. degree from Princeton University in 1974. He then worked as an Employee Relations Coordinator for American Can Co. until 1977. He received his law degree from the University of Florida School of Law in 1980. If confirmed, Davis will fill the only vacancy on the court of 15.
Northern District of Oklahoma
Obama nominated John Dowdell to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to fill the seat vacated by Terence Kern. Dowdell is currently a partner in the firm Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler & Dowdell, P.C., which is based in Tulsa, OK. After a post law school clerkship, Dowdell has spent he career in private practice. He attended Wake Forest University, earning his bachelors in 1978. He went on to earn his J.D. from the University of Tulsa School of Law in 1981. If confirmed, Dowdell will fill the only vacancy on the court of four.
- ↑ 112th Congress Confirmations
- ↑ 112th Congress Nomination Materials
- ↑ HeraldNet, "Spokane man confirmed as U.S. district court judge" 3/7/2012
- ↑ Judge Baker Fairbank's Biography at the Federal Judicial Center
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 "President Obama Nominates Two to Serve on the US District Court" 2/29/2012
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate" 2/29/2012
- ↑ Biographies of State and County Court Judges in Florida Scroll to p.44
|This article was written by Joshua Meyer-Gutbrod, an Assistant Staff Writer for the Federal Courts Project on Judgepedia. He can be reached at joshua.meyer-gutbrod.|