Federal Courts, Empty Benches:The Wednesday Vacancy Count 7/6/2011
- For a District by District break down, see: Federal Court Vacancy Warning System
The current vacancy warning level for the U.S. Federal courts is set at Yellow and is up from last week due to one additional transition to senior status at the appellate level. There was an additional confirmation to the United States District Court for the U.S. Virgin Islands, a non-article III court that we do not consider in our count. This was the first candidate to be appointed in 2011 to be confirmed. Approximately 10% of the total Article III posts are currently left 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||9.5% or 17 vacancies|
|District Courts||10.2% or 70 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. There are currently 58 pending appointments in the Senate leaving 33% of the vacant posts without an appointment. So far this year there have been 28 confirmations.
District of Virgin Islands
Wilma Lewis was confirmed on June 30, 2011 by a voice vote of the United States Senate to the United States District Court for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Lewis's nomination was originally submitted on March 2, 2011, making her the first nomination submitted in 2011 to be confirmed to the post. She fills the one vacancy on the court. However, because the court is a non-article III court with temporary appointment, we do not consider it as a part of our vacancy count.
On June 30, 2011 Maryanne Barry of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit assumed senior status after 12 years serving on the appellate court and an additional 16 years on the District of New Jersey. Barry was originally appointed by Ronald Reagan and was later elevated to the appellate courts by Bill Clinton. She will be creating a new vacancy on the Third Circuit, which will be the only vacancy on the court, raising the courts vacancy warning level from Green to Blue.
On June 29, 2011 President Obama submitted two new nominations to the Senate covering the District of Utah and the Eastern District of Washington. Obama stated in his press release, “I am honored to nominate these distinguished individuals to serve on the United States District Court bench. They have both demonstrated an unwavering commitment to justice throughout their careers, and I am confident they will continue to serve the American people with integrity.”
District of Utah
President Obama nominated David Nuffer to the United States District Court for the District of Utah to fill the vacancy left by Dale Kimball upon his transition to senior status in November of 2009. Nuffer currently serves as a magistrate judge on the court, a position he has held since 2003. The appointment, if confirmed, would fill one of two vacancies in a struggling district where currently 40% of the seats are vacant.
Eastern District of Washington
President Obama nominated Thomas Rice to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington to fill the seat vacated by Robert Whaley upon his transition to senior status in July of 2009. Rice has served as the Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington since 1987.  The appointment, if confirmed, will fill the only remaining vacancy on the court.
|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.|