Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Judicial Nominations Update

Thanks to Senator Jeff Flake, the Senate’s lame duck session is turning out to be a disappointment on the judicial nominations front thus far.

Last Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley cancelled the Committee’s executive business meeting as a result of Sen. Flake’s continuing hold on judicial nominees, which Flake announced on November 14th.  Sen. Flake said that he would oppose all of President Trump’s judicial nominees until legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from being fired was brought to a vote on the Senate Floor.  (Note that such a bill is widely viewed to be unconstitutional.)

Sen. Flake sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and without his vote, a total of 21 judicial nominees (including six circuit court nominees and 15 district court nominees) remain stranded in the Committee, which Republicans control by a one-vote margin.  This is to say nothing of the 33 judicial nominees who are currently waiting on the Senate Floor for confirmation votes.​  Up until now, the nominations process has been running smoothly and has been an exceptional example of cooperation between the White House and GOP Senators.  It is a shame to see this process breaking down during the lame duck session.

This week, the Senate is expected to vote on the confirmation of Jonathan Kobes, President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  Last Thursday, the Senate narrowly voted to end debate on the Kobes nomination, with Vice President Pence breaking the tie—again because of Sen. Flake’s opposition. (Because Senator Jim Inhofe had to miss the vote, Sen. Flake did, however, agree to vote live pair, or present, to offset Inhofe’s missed “yea” vote.)

Here is a full update on the status of President Trump’s federal judicial nominations: 

Current and known future vacancies:  159

Courts of Appeals:  16

District/Specialty Courts*: 143

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
Joseph Bianco (2nd) 11/13/2018 21 No Not yet scheduled
Michael Park (2nd) 11/13/2018 21 No Not yet scheduled
Patrick Bumatay (9th) 11/13/2018 21 No Not yet scheduled
Dan Collins (9th) 11/13/2018 21 No Not yet scheduled
Ken Lee (9th) 11/13/2018 21 No Not yet scheduled
Neomi Rao (DC) 11/14/2018 20 N/A Not yet scheduled

Court of Appeals Nominees Awaiting Senate Judiciary Committee Votes

Nominee (Circuit) Nomination Date Days Pending Judiciary Committee Hearing Date
Eric Murphy (6th) 6/18/2018 169 10/10/2018
Chad Readler (6th) 6/18/2018 169 10/10/2018
Eric Miller (9th) 7/19/2018 138 10/24/2018
Bridget Shelton Bade (9th) 8/27/2018 99 10/24/2018
Allison Jones Rushing (4th) 8/27/2018 99 10/17/2018
Paul Matey (3rd) 4/12/2018 236 11/14/2018

 Court of Appeals Nominees Awaiting Senate Floor Votes

Nominee (Circuit) Nomination Date Days Pending Date Reported to Senate Floor
Jonathan Kobes (8th) 6/11/2018 176 10/11/2018

 Nominees Awaiting Floor Votes: 33

Courts of Appeals:  1

District/Specialty Courts:  32

Nominees Confirmed by the Senate: 84

Supreme Court: 2

Courts of Appeals: 29

District/Specialty Courts:  53

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

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