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Federal Courts, Empty Benches:The Wednesday Vacancy Count 2/8/2012

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February 8, 2012

By Joshua Meyer-Gutbrod

For a District by District break down, see: Federal Court Vacancy Warning System
FederalVacancy Blue.png

The current vacancy warning level for the U.S. District courts is set at Blue. This past week, a federal judge for the Fifth Circuit assumed senior status, creating a new vacancy. The final tally leaves 83 vacancies or approximately 9.6% 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 9.5% or 17 vacancies
District Courts 9.7% or 66 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.

New confirmations

There were no new confirmations this past week.

New vacancies

Fifth Circuit

FederalVacancy Blue.png

On February 3, 2012 Fortunato Benavides assumed senior status after serving on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for nearly 18 years.[1] Born in Missio, TX in 1947, Benavides graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor's in Business Administration in 1968 and later graduated from Houston Law with his juris doctor degree in 1972. At the time of his appointment from Bill Clinton in 1994, Benavides was a private practice attorney after serving on both district and appellate Texas state courts. [2] The vacancy markes the first vacancy on the court of seventeen, raising the vacancy warnning level from Green to Blue.

New appointments

On February 2, 2012 President Obama nominated two people to the United States District Courts. Obama commented on the two nominations, stating "These individuals have demonstrated the talent, expertise, and fair-mindedness Americans expect and deserve from their judicial system. I am grateful for their willingness to serve and confident that they will apply the law with the utmost impartiality and integrity."[3]

Southern District of Iowa

President Barack Obama nominated Stephanie Rose to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa to fill the vacancy which will be left by Robert Pratt upon his retirement in July 2012.[4] Rose has already been rated Unanimously Well Qualified by the ABA. Rose currently serves as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa where she has also served as an Assistant United States Attorney. She earned her B.A. from University of Iowa in 1994 and went on to earn her J.D. at the same school in 1996.[3] The nomination would fill what will be the only vacancy on the court of three.

District of Connecticut

President Barack Obama also nominated Michael Shea to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut to fill the vacancy left by Christopher Droney upon his elevation.[4] Shea received a rating of Unanimously Qualified from the ABA. Shea is currently a partner in the law firm Day Pitney LLP in Hartford,CT. Shea has spent his entire legal career in private practice. He earned his B.A. summa cum laude from Amherst College in 1989. He went on to earn his J.D. from Yale Law four years later. [3] If confirmed, Shea will fill the only appoint on the court of seven.

See also