Federal Courts, Empty Benches:The Wednesday Vacancy Count 6/8/2011

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June 8, 2011

By Joshua Meyer-Gutbrod

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 was raised from its previous level of Blue due to three additional vacancies at the district court level from judges transitioning to senior status. Approximately 10.1% of the total Article III posts are currently left unfilled. The vacancy information for the various court levels is as follows:

Key:
(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)
0%0%-10%
10%-25%25%-40%
More than 40%
Supreme Court 0% or no vacancies
Appeals Courts 9% or 16 vacancies
District Courts 10.6% or 72 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 57 pending appointments in the Senate leaving 36% of the vacant posts without an appointment. So far this year there have been 24 confirmations.

The review this week will cover the past three weeks of activity for the federal judiciary.

New confirmations

There have been no new confirmations in the past three weeks. As a result, the vacancy warning level for the federal courts has risen.

New Vacancies

This week, we recognize four judges who have transitioned to senior status, taking on reduced case loads and creating additional vacancies to be filled by President Obama and the Senate.

District of Massachusetts

On May 22, 2011 Nancy Gertner assumed senior status for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Gertner served on the court since her appointment by Bill Clinton on October 27, 1993. Her transition opens up the only vacancy on the court, raising the vacancy warning level from Green to Blue.[1]

District of Nevada

The United States District Court for the District of Nevada jumped from Green to Yellow when one of its seven posts opened up when Chief Judge Roger Hunt assumed senior status on May 26, 2011.[1] He had served on the court since his appointment by Bill Clinton in 2000 and has served as the chief judge since 2007.

Southern District of Texas

Janis Jack assumed senior status on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas on June 1, 2011.[1] Jack has served on the court since her 1994 appointment from Bill Clinton. The vacancy is the fourth vacancy on the court, but the vacancy warning level remains unchanged at Yellow.

International trade

While we do not consider the court within our vacancy count, Judith Barzilay of the United States Court of International Trade assumed senior status on June 2, 2011.

New appointments

President Obama nominated eight new judges, four to district court on June 7, 2011, three to district court on May 19, 2011 and one to the Ninth Circuit on May 18, 2011.

Eastern District of New York

Margo Brodie was nominated to the Eastern District of New York on June 7, 2011 to fill the seat vacated by Allyne Ross. Brodie is currently an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York and would fill one of the three current vacancies on the court.[2]

Eastern District of Louisiana

Susie Morgan was appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on June 7, 2011 to fill a seat vacated by the impeachment of Thomas Porteous. Morgan is currently a partner in the New Orleans law firm of Phelps Dunbar LLP a position she has held since 2005.[2] The nomination would fill one of the three vacancies on the court.

Western District of Missouri

Mary Elizabeth Phillips was appointed to the Western District of Missouri by Barack Obama on June 7, 2011 to fill a seat vacated by Ortrie Smith on his retirement. Phillips is currently a the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. The nomination would fill the only vacancy on the court.[2]

Ninth Circuit

President Obama nominated Morgan Christen of the Alaska Supreme Court to a vacant post on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to a seat left vacant by Andrew Kleinfeld. Obama commented on the nomination, stating "I am proud to nominate this outstanding candidate to serve on the United States Court of Appeals. I am confident Justice Morgan Christen will serve the American people with integrity and distinction.”[3] The nomination would fill one of three vacancies on the court, with one other pending nomination awaiting action by the senate.

Southern District of New York

Andrew L. Carter, Jr. was appointed by Barack Obama to the Southern District of New York on May 19, 2011. Carter currently serves on the Eastern District of New York as a magistrate judge. The appointment would fill one of the eight current vacancies in one of the most struggling districts in the country with a vacancy warning level of Orange.[4]

Jesse Furman was appointed on June 7, 2011 to the Southern District of New York to fill the seat vacated by Alvin Hellerstein. Furman is currently an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York.[2]

Eastern District of Texas

Barack Obama nominated James Gilstrap to the Eastern District of Texas on May 19, 2011. Gilstrap is currently a private practice attorney in Texas. The appointment would fill the only vacancy on the court.[4]

Northern District of West Virginia

Gina Marie Groh was nominated by Barack Obama to the only vacant post on the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. Groh currently serves on the Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit, West Virginia.[4]

See also

References