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The Federal Judicial Vacancy Count

(Ballot Pedia) - President Joe Biden (D) inherited 46 Article III lifetime federal judicial vacancies requiring a presidential nomination when he was inaugurated on January 20, 2021. Across 890 federal judicial positions, there was an average of 76 vacancies a month from January 2021 to September 2022.

This is an overview of recent vacancies, nominations, and confirmations; the number of vacancies by month; the number of nominations and confirmations by month; historical analysis of the state of the federal judiciary at the start of Biden's term compared to that of his six immediate predecessors; and an analysis of possible judicial openings during Biden's term of office.

For monthly updates on vacancies and appointments in the federal judiciary, see the federal judicial vacancy count. For a list of individuals nominated to fill these vacancies, click here.

HIGHLIGHTS Of the 870 life-term federal judicial positions, Biden inherited 46 vacancies. This was the lowest number of federal judicial vacancies at the beginning of a presidency since the inauguration of George H.W. Bush in 1989 when Bush inherited 37 vacancies. For a breakdown of these numbers by the presidency, see Vacancies by term.

The 46 vacancies represented roughly one-twentieth of all life-term judicial positions (5.29%). Biden had the lowest percentage of circuit court vacancies and the fourth-highest percentage of district court vacancies among recent incoming administrations.

New vacancies

Five judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

  • Judge Gershwin Drain assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

  • Judge Abdul Kallon retired from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama

  • Judge Gregg Costa retired from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit

  • Judge Judith Rogers assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

  • Judge John T. Fowlkes assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) announced two new nominations since the previous report:

  • DeAndrea Benjamin to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

  • Jabari Wamble to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Since taking office in January 2021, Biden has nominated 141 individuals to Article III positions.

New confirmations

There have been two new confirmations since the previous report:

  • Elizabeth Hanes to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

  • Roopali Desai to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

As of September 1, 2022, the Senate had confirmed 76 of President Biden's Article III judicial nominees—57 district court judges, 18 appeals court judges, and one Supreme Court justice—since his inauguration on January 20, 2021. To review a complete list of Biden's confirmed nominees, click here.

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