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Six-month checkup on federal judicial activity during Biden’s first year – Ballotpedia News

Welcome to the July 19th issue of Bold Justice, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) and other US court events

In a special edition of Bold Justice, we’ll be measuring the temperature of state justice activity in the first year of the Biden administration with a six-month review of job postings, nominations, and endorsements.

Stay up to date with the latest news by following Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribing to the Daily Brew.

Before we get into our investigation, let’s take a quick look at the latest US Supreme Court activity.

Arguments planned

SCOTUS is in the summer break, so they are not giving any opinions. But that doesn’t mean that they are completely on vacation. On July 13, the court released the calendar for its October session. Between October 4th and October 13th, nine hours of oral proceedings will be heard in nine cases.

Click the links below to learn more about the cases:

October 4, 2021

October 5, 2021

October 6, 2021

October 12, 2021

October 13, 2021

So far, 20 cases that were appraised during the term of office have not yet been put up for discussion.


SCOTUS has not accepted any new cases since our July 12th issue. To date, the court has agreed on 31 cases for the 2021-2022 term. Two cases were dismissed upon acceptance.

True or False: All judges must be present for the court to rule a case.

  1. True
  2. Not correct

Pick an answer to find out!

Job offers

President Joe Biden, D, upon inauguration on January 20, 2021, inherited 46 Article III vacant federal judicial posts that required a presidential nomination to the U.S. Court of International Trade.

The 46 vacancies made up about one twentieth of all judge positions for life (5.29%). This was the lowest number of federal judicial posts at the start of a presidency since 1989, when George HW Bush inherited 37 vacancies.

Since 1981 every president has had more judicial vacancies six months after taking office than at the beginning of his term in office.

The data above shows that six months into his first term since the Reagan administration, Biden has the third highest number of open positions and the third highest percentage of open positions of any incumbent president.

The number of legal jobs created during the first six months in Biden’s office is the second highest in our data (28), and equals the number of job vacancies created during President George W. Bush’s first six months ( 28) were created. President Barack Obama, 29, had the most open positions in the judiciary in his first six months as president.

On July 19th there was 78 Article III Job offers in federal justice out of a total of 870 Article III judges. Including non-Article III justices in the US Federal Court of Justice and the United States Territorial Courts, 83 vacant positions are vacant of 890 active federal judicial positions.


Since taking office, President Biden has nominated 30 people for federal judgeships.

The following data compares Biden to his immediate predecessors for the number of Article III judicial nominations presented to the U.S. Senate during his first six months in office.

Biden has submitted nominations in his first six months in office to fill more than 38% of federal judicial positions. This is the highest percentage since George W. Bush and the highest since 1981. President Bill Clinton (D) had the lowest percentage among the Presidents listed here because he did not submit any Article III nominations during his first six months in office.

For a list of the individuals President Biden has nominated for Article III judgeships, click here.

Blue papers and the nomination process

A blue slip of paper is a piece of paper that a home state senator returns to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to express support for a federal justice candidate.

In February 2021, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the 117th Congress. Durbin said in an interview with the New York Times that he was following the precedent set by his predecessor – Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), who served as committee chair in the 116th Congress, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who served as chairman during the 115th Congress – following the tradition of the blue certificate for district court candidates, but not nominated for district court. Durbin said he might reconsider following the blue slip tradition with candidates for the district court.

For more information on blue slips and federal court nominations, click here.


Since taking office, seven of the nominees have been confirmed by President Biden and six have received their legal commission.

The following table compares Biden’s affirmations at this point in time in his government with those of his predecessors:

Since 1981, Biden has had the most court confirmations in the first six months of his presidency (7). Neither President Clinton nor President Obama had confirmed any nominations at this point in their presidency. President Donald Trump (R) is the only President listed here who has confirmed a Supreme Court, District Court, and District Court candidate in his first six months in office.

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and job postings? We thought you could. Our monthly federal job census, published at the beginning of each month, monitors all the faces and places that move into federal justice, move out, and move on. Click here for our current count.

Do you need judicial appointment, confirmation, and job posting on a daily basis? For more information on the status of all federal justice candidates, click here.

Also, keep an eye on our list for the latest information on federal judge nominations.

Lucy, I’m at home! Welcome back, dear readers, to our journey through the history of the federal judiciary. Take a seat on Davenport and enjoy today’s edition of Bold Justice highlighting President Harry Truman’s (R) federal justice candidates from 1945 to 1953.

During his tenure, 140 of President Truman’s judicial candidates were re-elected. Two nominations were withdrawn, the U.S. Senate rejected two nominations, and the Senate failed to vote on 38 nominees. The most notable appointments included four Supreme Court justices:

President Truman’s first Article III appointment was sustained May 15, 1945 – Judge Donnell Gilliam in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. By the end of his first year in office, 16 of Truman’s candidates had been confirmed – one in the US Supreme Court, five in the US District Courts, nine in the US District Courts, and one in the US Customs Court. Truman had an average of 18 court appointments a year. For comparison: President Jimmy Carter (D) had the highest average from 1901 to 2021 with 65.5 appointments per year.

We’ll be back on August 9th with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, give up!


Kate Carsella has compiled and edited this newsletter with contributions from Brittony Maag, Jace Lington and Sara Reynolds.

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