Thursday, February 01, 2024

February 2024 Judiciary News

2023 in Review:

Circuit judges: Biden has filled 11 circuit court seats in 2023, for a total of 39 overall. Only 1 of the 11 replaced an R appointee (moderately conservative Brooks Smith). There are 4 more nominees waiting for votes. There are 4 more future vacancies without nominees. There are 14 more D-appointed circuit court judges who are eligible for senior status but have not yet taken it.

Three nominees are in red states (SC, TX, KS) and two in purple states (MT, OH). Three (SC, TX, KS) had support from home state R senators, and two (MT, OH) did not. Only 2 of 11 circuit appointees is a white male (4 of 39 overall). This compares to President Trump’s appointment of 50 Circuit judges in his first three years.

The most votes for a circuit judge was 80 for Irma Carrillo Ramirez, and the smallest margin in 2023 was 2 for Nancy Abudu and Rachel Bloomekatz. Biden’s biggest impact is on the 9th Circuit, where he has appointed 8 judges and the 2nd Circuit (6 judges).

District Judges: Biden appointed 58 district judges, for a total of 126 overall. This compares to President Trump’s appointment of 133 District judges in his first three years.

Three district judges were confirmed by voice vote, Matthew Brookman (SD-IN), Amanda Brailsford (D-ID), and John Russell (ND-OK). Aside from them, the most votes was 67 for Jennifer L. Hall (D-DE). Six judges were confirmed by 1-vote margins (Araceli Martínez-Olguín, Margaret Guzman, Dale Ho, Nusrat Choudhury, Natasha Merle, Loren AliKhan).  Seven (IN, ID, 3 LA, 2 OK) appointees are in red states, and none are in purple states.

Year in Review:  Harsh Voruganti of The Vetting Room reviews judicial nominations in 2023.

Top Stories:  Bloomberg lists what it considers the top five stories on judicial nominations in 2023.

Year in Review:  Carrie Severino reviews judicial nominations in 2023.

Nominations, Hearings, Confirmations:

Judiciary Committee:  The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena conservative activists Harlan Crow, Robin Arkley, and Leonard Leo as part of their effort to smear conservative judges.  They could only do so by violating their own rules and ignoring amendments put forward by R senators.

Biden nominations: Leftists are worried that Biden will be unable to appoint as many judges as Trump did in his term.

Renomination:  President Biden did not renominate Scott Colom (ND-MS), Charnelle Bjelkengren (ED-WA), Todd Edelman (D-DC), Marian Gaston (SD-CA), and Colleen Holland (WD-NY).  Colom did not get a blue slip from Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.  Bjelkengren failed basic questioning by Senator Kennedy (R-LA).

Blue Slip:  Leftists are still trying to eliminate the blue slip for district judges, but Senator Durbin does not support this.

3rd Circuit:  Carrie Severino exposes nominee Adeel Mangi, who served on the board of advisors for the Center for Security, Race, and Rights at Rutgers Law School, which has a long history of promoting anti-Semitic and anti-Christian events.

Claims:  Senator John Kennedy stumped nominee Robin Meriweather with the question of what are the grounds for granting a new trial in the Court of Federal Claims.


The Federal Judiciary:

Supreme Court:  The New York Times has a story about the Dobbs abortion case using sources from inside the Supreme Court.  They try to imply that the person who leaked the Dobbs draft was a conservative, but Ed Whelan shows that close reading of the article suggests the opposite.

O'Connor:  Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor died on December 1 at age 93.  She was appointed by Reagan in 1981 and retired in 2006.  She was previously an Arizona state senator (1969-75) and Arizona Court of Appeals judge (1979-81).

Sotomayor:  In a recent speech, Justice Sotomayor said "I live in frustration. And as you heard, every loss truly traumatizes me in my stomach and in my heart."

Federal Circuit:  David Lat recently interviewed Judge Pauline Newman, who was suspended for one year from her duties by the Federal Circuit. Critics claim she is unable to fulfill her duties, but she seems lucid in the interview.  She claims that she is being mistreated due to her frequent dissents and is challenging her suspension in court.

Vacancy Declarations:  There are now 91 current and future judicial vacancies.  New vacancies over the past two months are listed below.
D-MN: Wilhelmina Wright (Obama) 2/15/24 (resigned)
ED-NY: Joan Azrack (Obama) 12/19/24 (senior)
ED-LA: Sarah Vance (Clinton) 1/16/24 (senior)
SD-NY: Lorna Schofield (Obama) 12/31/24 (senior)
4th Circuit: James Wynn (Obama) TBD (senior)
7th Circuit: Ilana Rovner (HW) TBD (senior)
CD-CA: Dale Fischer (W) 5/1/2024 (senior)
11th Circuit: Charles Wilson (Clinton) 12/31/24 (senior)
CD-CA: Philip Gutierrez (W) 10/15/24 (senior)

State Supreme Courts:

Elections:  The AP has a preview of state supreme court elections that are likely to be hotly contested in 2024.

Arkansas:  Two seats are up for election on March 5.  
Chief Justice:  John Dan Kemp is retiring.  Current justices Karen Baker, Barbara Webb, and Rhonda Wood are all seeking the seat.  The final candidate is former state rep Jay Martin (D).
Seat 2: Appointed incumbent Cody Hiland (R) is ineligible to run for reelection.  Seat 3 incumbent Courtney Rae Hudson is seeking this seat on the dubious rationale that she would be able to avoid age limits for a few more years (even though she is only 50).  The other candidate is Circuit Judge Carlton Jones.

Massachusetts:  Governor Maura Healey (D) nominated State Solicitor Elizabeth Dewar to replace Elspeth Cypher, who will retire on January 1.  Dewar clerked for Louis Pollak (ED-PA), William Fletcher (9th Circuit), and Breyer at the Supreme Court.  She was appointed solicitor by Healey in 2016.

Montana:  The Montana Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that the state legislature must pay attorney's fees to lawyers who sued to overturn a bill to reform abuses by Montana's leftist judges.

Tennessee:  The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments selected three of six applicants as finalists for a vacancy on the Tennessee Supreme Court.  The seat will be vacated by Justice Roger Page in August.  Governor Bill Lee will get his third appointment to the court.

Wyoming:  Governor Mark Gordon appointed Robert Jarosh to the Wyoming Supreme Court.  Jarosh clerked for Magistrate Judge William Beamon (D-WY) and works in private practice.  He was one of three finalists to replace Justice Keith Kautz, who leaves the court on March 26.

Numbers and Trivia:

Chief Judges: The Presidents who appointed chief judges of the 13 appeals courts are W (2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, Fed) and Obama (1, 4, 9, DC). There are two chief judges that will change in 2024. They are expected to be
5th Circuit (October 4) Priscilla Richman (W) ->  Jennifer Elrod (W)
8th Circuit (March 11) Lavenski Smith (W) -> Steven Colloton (W)

Here are the numbers of senior status declarations/retirements for federal judges (circuit judges) for the past year.

4 (1) January 2023
3 (1) February
8 (0) March/April
2 (0) May
4 (0) June
1 (0) July
7 (0) August/September
13 (1) October/November
2 (0) December 2023

44 (3) Total (2023)
59 (8) Total (2022)
99 (30) Total (2021)


On Ed Whelan's Substack, "Confirmation Tales", recent posts deal with George W. Bush's nomination of federal judges.