Federal Courts, Empty Benches:The Wednesday Vacancy Count 4/25/2012
- 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. There was one new vacancy and three new confirmations this past week, leaving the final tally at 77 vacancies or approximately 8.9% of the total Article III posts currently unfilled. One of the confirmations at the district level covered vacant posts in two separate courts. 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||8.4% or 15 vacancies|
|District Courts||9.1% or 62 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.
The new weekly map feature will be updated every week and posted here and on the vacancy warning level analysis page.
On Monday April 16, 2012, Stephanie Thacker was confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Thacker was originally appointed by Barack Obama on September 8, 2011 to fill the seat vacated by Blane Michael. At the time of appointment, Thacker was a partner at the firm Guthrie & Thomas PLLC, in Charleston, WV. She was rated Substantial Majority Well Qualified, Minority Qualified by the American Bar Association. She had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee on October 4, 2011 and you can find her Committee Questionnaire Available Here and her Questions for the Record Available Here. She was unanimously endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, with a ringing endorsement from West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who told the press, "Ms. Thacker's wide-ranging expertise in civil and criminal matters, her impressive track record in the courtroom as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, and her outstanding academic accomplishments will make her a first-rate addition to the 4th Circuit. I am proud to call her a fellow West Virginian, and I am pleased that she has finally been confirmed." The confirmation fills the only vacancy on the court of fifteen, lowering the vacancy warning level from Blue to Green.
Districts of Missouri
On Monday, April 23, 2012, the United States Senate confirmed Brian C. Wimes to the joint seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri with a vote of 92-1.  Wimes was originally appointed on September 22, 2011 by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy left by Nanette Laughrey. At the time of appointment, Wimes was a judge for the Missouri 16th Judicial Circuit Court. He was rated Unanimously Qualified by the American Bar Association. He had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee on November 14, 2011 and you can find his Committee Questionnaire Available Here and his Questions for the Record Available Here. The confirmation fills the only vacancy on the Eastern District of Missouri lowering the vacancy warning level from Yellow to Green. The confirmation also fills one of two vacancies for the Western District of Missouri, lowering the vacancy warning level from Orange to Yellow.
Missed confirmation, Western District of Missouri
On March 6, 2012, Mary Elizabeth Phillips was confirmed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.  Phillips was originally appointed by Barack Obama on June 7, 2011 to fill the seat vacated by Ortrie Smith. At the time of appointment, Phillips was a U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. She was rated Unanimously Well Qualified by the American Bar Association. She had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee on September 20, 2011 and you can find her Committee Questionnaire Available Here and her Questions for the Record Available Here. The confirmation fills the only vacancy on the court of seven, lowering the vacancy warning level from Yellow to Green.
Northern District of Illinois
On April 23, 2012 Judge Joan Gottschall assumed senior status after serving on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for almost 16 years. She joined the court in 1994 after an appointment from Bill Clinton. She had served on the court for 12 years prior to that as a federal magistrate judge. Born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Gottschall received her Bachelor's degree from Smith College in 1969, and her Juris Doctor degree from Stanford University Law School in 1973. She is known for issueing an injunction blocking the state of Illinois from increasing its lobbyist fees, requiring the Illinois Secretary of State to either adopt a smaller change or keep the fees at their previous level.  The vacancy is the fifth vacancy on the court of 22, leaving the vacancy warning level unchanged at Yellow.
There were no new appointments to the federal judiciary this past week.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 112th Congress Confirmations
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 112th Congress Nomination Materials
- ↑ State Journal, "Stephanie Thacker confirmed to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals" 4/17/2012
- ↑ STLToday, "Missouri judge wins U.S. Senate confirmation amid delays" 4/23/2012
- ↑ Judge Gottschall Biography from the Federal Judicial Center.
- ↑ Chicago Tribune "Federal judge blocks big hike in state lobbyist fee", February 15, 2010
|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.|