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List of Federal Court Vacancies Heading Into the Donald Trump Administration

HERSHEY, PA - DECEMBER 15: US President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Giant Center, December 15, 2016 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. President-elect Trump has been visiting several states that he won, to thank people for their support in the US election. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Donald Trump holds a “thank you” rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania. (Getty)

When he becomes president next month, Donald Trump will inherent over 100 federal court vacancies, giving him an extraordinary amount of power to determine the future of law in the United States.

Every president has the opportunity to appoint judges upon taking office, but Trump enters the White House with more court vacancies than usual; when Barack Obama was inagurated in 2009, he had 59 vacant seats to fill, according to The Washington Post.

Here’s a look at some of the vacant federal court seats heading into the new year.


Supreme Court of the United States: One Seat Vacant

Of course, the vacancy which has received the most attention is that of Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.

In March 2016, a month after the death of Antonin Scalia, President Barack Obama formally nominated Merrick Garland to the vacant Supreme Court seat. However, the Senate subsequently refused to hold a vote on Garland’s nomination, with Republicans saying that it would not be appropriate to appoint a Supreme Court justice in an election year.

Garland was a relatively moderate judge, and so by delaying his nomination, Republicans were taking a gamble and hoping Trump would win the election; after all, if Hillary Clinton won, she might nominate an extremely liberal judge and make Republicans wish they had just approved Garland. But their gamble paid off, and now Trump will be able to appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court.

Although it’s not yet clear who Trump will pick, he did release a list of potential Supreme Court nominees during the campaign.


Courts of Appeals: 18 Seats Vacant

Among the United States courts of appeals, there are currently 18 vacant seats. With a few of these, nominees have been put forward, but they are pending approval from the Senate.

2nd District Court of Appeals: Two Seats Vacant

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit represents Connecticut, New York, and Vermont.

Two seats are currently vacant: the sixth seat and the eighth seat, which were previously occupied by Richard Wesley and Gerard Lynch. Both vacated their seats upon being granted senior status.

There is not currently a nominee to fill either of these two seats.

3rd District Court of Appeals: Two Seats Vacant

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit represents Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Two seats are currently vacant: the second seat and the third seat, as judges Julio Fuentes and Marjorie Rendell were granted senior status earlier this year.

Rebecca Ross Haywood has been nominated to the second seat, and her nomination is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee. There is not yet a nominee for the third seat.

5th District Court of Appeals: Three Seats Vacant

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit represents Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

Three seats are currently vacant, although a third will become vacant before Donald Trump takes office. The 20th and 22nd seats are vacant because Carolyn Dineen King and Emilio M. Garza have been granted senior status, while W. Eugene Davis, who currently occupies the 10th seat, will be granted this status on December 31st, 2016.

No nominees have yet been put forward.

6th District Court of Appeals: Two Seats Vacant

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit represents Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tenessee.

There is one seat currently vacant: seat 11, as Boyce F. Martin, Jr. retired in 2013. Lisabeth Tabor Hughes was nominated to replace him, but she has been awaiting approval since March 2016.

7th District Court of Appeals: Two Seats Vacant

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit represents Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

There are currently two seats vacant: the fourth and the ninth seats, as John Daniel Tinder and Terence T. Evans were granted senior status.

Nominees have been put forward for both of these vacancies: Myra C. Selby for the fourth seat and Donald Karl Schott for the ninth seat. However, both are still pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

8th District Court of Appeals: Two Seats Vacant

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit represents Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Two seats are vacant: the seventh seat and the ninth seat, as Diana E. Murphy and Kermit Edward Bye have been granted senior status.

Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl is the nominee for the ninth seat, but she has been awaiting approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee since January 2016. No nominee has been put forward for the seventh seat.

9th District Court of Appeals: Four Seats Vacant

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit represents Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

There are currently two seats vacant, but four will be vacant by the time Donald Trump becomes president. The 13th and the 19th seats have been vacated by Harry Pregerson and Barry Silverman, who were granted senior status. The 10th and 24th seats will also soon be vacated, as Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Richard R. Clifton will be granted senior status on December 31st, 2016.

Lucy H. Koh was put forward as the nominee for the 19th seat in February 2016 but is awaiting approval. The other three seats do not currently have nominees.

11th District Court of Appeals: One Seat Vacant

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit represents Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

One seat is currently vacant: the fifth seat, as Joel Fredrick Dubina was granted senior status. Abdul K. Kallon was put forward as the nominee in February 2016 but is awaiting confirmation.


District & Territorial Courts: 85 Seats Vacant

Among the various district and territorial courts across the United States, there are currently 85 vacant seats. In almost all of the cases where there is a vacancy, it’s because the judge was granted senior status, though it can also be due to retirement or resignation. Here’s how those are broken down:

    • Northern District of Alabama: Two seats vacant
    • Middle District of Alabama: Two seats vacant
    • Southern District of Alabama: One seat vacant
    • District of Alaska: One seat vacant
    • District of Arizona: Two seats vacant
    • Central District of California: Four seats vacant
    • Southern District of California: One seat vacant
    • District of Colorado: One seat vacant
    • District of Columbia: Three seats vacant
    • Northern District of Florida: Three seats vacant
    • Middle District of Florida: Two seats vacant
    • Southern District of Florida: Two seats vacant
    • Northern District of Georgia: One seat vacant
    • Middle District of Georgia: One seat vacant
    • District of Hawaii: One seat vacant
    • District of Idaho: One seat vacant
    • Northern District of Illinois: One seat vacant
    • Northern District of Indiana: One seat vacant
    • Southern District of Indiana: One seat vacant
    • District of Kansas: One seat vacant
    • Eastern District of Kentucky: One seat vacant
    • Western District of Kentucky: Two seats vacant
    • Eastern District of Louisiana: Two seats vacant
    • Western District of Louisiana: Two seats vacant
    • District of Maryland: One seat vacant
    • District of Massachusetts: One seat vacant
    • Eastern District of Michigan: One seat vacant
    • District of Minnesota: Two seats vacant
    • District of Nevada: One seat vacant
    • District of New Jersey: Two seats vacant
    • Eastern District of New York: Three seats vacant
    • Northern District of New York: One seat vacant
    • Southern District of New York: One seat vacant
    • Western District of New York: One seat vacant
    • Eastern District of North Carolina: One seat vacant
    • Southern District of Ohio: One seat vacant
    • Western District of Oklahoma: Three seats vacant
    • Eastern District of Pennsylvania: Three seats vacant
    • Western District of Pennsylvania: Four seats vacant
    • District of Puerto Rico: One seat vacant
    • District of Rhode Island: One seat vacant
    • District of South Carolina: Two seats vacant
    • Middle District of Tennessee: One seat vacant
    • Western District of Tennessee: One seat vacant
    • Eastern District of Texas: Three seats vacant
    • Northern District of Texas: Four seats vacant
    • Southern District of Texas: Two seats vacant
    • Western District of Texas: Two seats vacant
    • District of Utah: One seat vacant
    • Western District of Washington: Three seats vacant
    • Eastern District of Wisconsin: One seat vacant

United States Court of International Trade: Two Seats Vacant

The United States Court of International Trade currently has two vacant seats. The first is the seat of Donald C. Pogue, who was granted senior status in 2014. Jeanne E. Davidson was nominated to fill this seat in September 2014 but has not yet been approved.

There’s also the seat of Richard K. Eaton, who was granted senior status in August 2014. Elizabeth J. Drake was nominated to replace him in July 2015 but is still waiting to be approved.


United States Court of Federal Claims: Six Seats Vacant

Finally, there are six seats vacant on the United States Court of Federal Claims.

First there are the seats of Lynn J. Bush, Edward J. Damich, and Nancy B. Firestone, who were granted senior status. Then there are the seats of Emily C. Hewitt, George W. Miller, and Lawrence J. Block, who have all retired. Block’s retirement is effective January 2016.

With all of those seats except for Block’s, nominees have been put forward. Those nominees are Thomas L. Halkowski,  Patricia M. McCarthy, Armando Omar Bonilla, Nancy B. Firestone (who has been reappointed), and Jeri Kaylene Somers. All are awaiting approval.

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1 comment

  1. its not that they are uncapable….they are flouting it in the face of the constituents they represent that they dont have to do anything they dont want to …..and they were told in november 2008 that they were not to allow the current President ANY influence in running the government.so, all of his appointments and the laws he tried to work into rule..sat UNFULLFILLED …if i did that at my job i would not have a job……….and the nutcases of America RE-elected those assholes at the last mid-term and this last election …….so i dont feel sorry for anyone in America anymore.they get what they paid for ………….And they deserve it ……..i cant wait to hear the outcries of the losers who elected these clowns BACK into office.