Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Judicial Nominations Update

Senator James Lankford speaks, November 1, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

When the Senate returned from its spring recess last Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he had a slate of nominees to confirm last week and that the Senate would be staying to work until the full slate was confirmed. The result? For the first time since President Trump took office, two federal district-court nominees were confirmed via voice vote last Thursday. Prior to the current administration (and the unparalleled resistance we have witnessed in the Senate) uncontroversial district judges — and even sometimes circuit judges — were routinely confirmed by voice votes or through unanimous-consent agreements.

Yet, despite the two voice votes last week (and the confirmation of a third uncontroversial district judge earlier in the week by a nearly unanimous 96-1 margin), the Democratic minority still insisted on cloture votes for all three nominees, the only purpose of which was to waste precious Senate Floor time.  Since Inauguration Day, the Senate minority has required 86 cloture votes on President Trump’s judicial and executive-branch nominees. By comparison, between 2009 and 2013, there were only twelve cloture votes held for President Obama’s nominees.

In an effort to address this unprecedented obstruction, Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma has proposed to shorten post-cloture debate time from a maximum of 30 hours per nominee to eight hours for non-Cabinet level executive branch nominees and two hours to district-court nominees, similar to a bipartisan Senate agreement reached in 2013. Senator Lankford’s proposal continues to gain attention and interest, and I hope that it is soon enacted to address the growing backlog of judicial nominees on the Senate floor. In the meantime, I applaud Leader McConnell for working to counter the egregious resistance of the Democratic minority, and confirming President Trump’s outstanding judicial nominees.

Here is this week’s full update on federal judicial nominations:

Current and known future vacancies: 180

Courts of Appeals: 28

District/Specialty Courts*: 152

Pending nominees for current and known future vacancies: 73

Courts of Appeals: 13

District/Specialty Courts: 60

* Includes the Court of Federal Claims and the International Trade Court

Court of Appeals Nominees Awaiting Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings

Nominee (Circuit) Nomination Date Days Pending Both Blue Slips Returned? Judiciary Committee Hearing Date
Ryan Bounds (9th) 9/7/2017 230 No Not yet scheduled
Andrew Oldham (5th) 2/15/2018 61 Yes Not yet scheduled
Britt Grant (11th) 4/12/2018 5 No Not yet scheduled
David Porter (3rd) 4/12/2018 5 No Not yet scheduled
Paul Matey (3rd) 4/12/2018 5 No Not yet scheduled

Court of Appeals Nominees Awaiting Senate Judiciary Committee Votes

Nominee (Circuit) Nomination Date Days Pending Judiciary Committee Hearing Date
John Nalbandian (6th) 1/24/2018 83 3/8/2018
Amy St. Eve (7th) 2/15/2018 61 3/21/2018
Michael Scudder (7th) 2/15/2018 61 3/21/2018
Mark Bennett (9th) 2/15/2018 61 4/11/2018

Court of Appeals Nominees Awaiting Senate Floor Votes

Nominee (Circuit) Nomination Date Days Pending Date Reported out of Senate Judiciary Committee
Kyle Duncan (5th) 10/2/2017 197 1/18/2018
Kurt Engelhardt (5th) 10/5/2017 194 2/8/2018
Michael Brennan (7th) 8/3/2017 257 2/15/2018
Joel Carson (10th) 12/20/2017 118 2/14/2018

 Nominees Awaiting Floor Votes: 31

Courts of Appeals: 4

District/Specialty Courts: 27

Nominees Confirmed by the Senate: 32

Supreme Court: 1

Courts of Appeals: 14

District/Specialty Courts: 17

Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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