Federal Courts, Empty Benches:The Wednesday Vacancy Count 9/14/2011
- 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 unchanged from last week despite the addition of two vacancies, raising the total to 92 and leaving approximately 10.6% of the total Article III posts currently unfilled. While a confirmation at the appellate level dropped its warning level from Yellow to Blue for the first time in 7 weeks, the vacancies at the district level have reached their highest point since the start of the study. 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||11% or 75 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. There are currently 56 pending appointments in the Senate leaving 39% of the vacant posts without an appointment. So far this year there have been 35 confirmations.
On September 6, 2011 the U.S. Senate confirmed Bernice Donald to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit with a vote of 96-2. Prior to her appointment by Barack Obama, Donald had been serving as a judge for the Western District of Tennessee since 1995. She was originally appointed on December 1, 2010 to fill the seat vacated by Ronald Gilman the month before, leaving that seat empty for almost 10 months. The confirmation fills the only vacancy on the court, lowering the vacancy warning level from Blue to Green. The confirmation also lowers the vacancy warning level for all circuit court judges from Blue to Green.
Western District of Tennessee
The elevation of Bernice Donald to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has created a new vacancy on the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The transition raises the vacancy warning level from Green to Yellow creating the first vacancy on a court with only five posts.
Southern District of New York
On September 11, 2011 Richard Berman assumed senior status on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York after serving on the bench for 13 years. Berman was originally appointed by Bill Clinton while he was serving as a judge on the Queens Count Family Court in New York. Berman is well known for the trial of the Al-Qaida operative Aafia Siddiqui and a major lawsuit against Craigslist over the sale of guns online. The transition creates the eighth vacancy on the court of 28, raising the vacancy warning level of the court from Yellow to Orange.
On September 8, 2011 President Obama nominated Stephanie Thacker to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to replace the recently deceased Blane Michael. Dawn is currently a member of the law firm Guthrie & Thomas PLLC, in Charleston, WV but has worked as a U.S. attorney in the Southern District of West Virginia and for the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section in Washington D.C.. She earned her B.A. from Marshall University in 1987, and her J.D. from West Virginia University School of Law in 1990. Obama said of the nomination, "Stephanie Dawn Thacker has displayed exceptional dedication to the legal profession through her work and I am honored to nominate her to serve the American people as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals. She will be a diligent, judicious and esteemed addition to the Fourth Circuit bench." If confirmed, Thacker would fill one of two vacancies on the court of 15. The court has one other pending nomination: Henry Floyd.
Southern District of Texas
On September 8, 2011 President Obama also nominated Gregg Costa to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas to replace the recently Retired John Rainey. Costa is currently an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District and has held that position since 2005. Costa earned his B.A. in 1994 from Dartmouth College and his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1999. Obama commented on the nomination stating, "Gregg Jeffrey Costa is a distinguished individual who has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to justice throughout his career. I am grateful for his decision to serve the American people from the District Court bench." The nomination would fill one of three vacancies vacancies on the court of nineteen posts.
- ↑ 112th Congress Confirmations
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 US Courts Current Vacancies
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate" 9/8/2011
- ↑ "President Obama Nominates Stephanie Dawn Thacker to Serve on US Circuit Court of Appeals" 9/8/2011
- ↑ "President Obama Nominates Gregg Jeffrey Costa to Serve on the US District Court" 9/8/2011
|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.|