by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read
The U.S. Senate just held its last session before taking its customary August recess.
And they went big before going home.
The Senate confirmed 13 more district court nominees, bringing the total judges confirmed during this administration to 146, an astonishing number.
Below is a brief recap of where numbers stand today when it comes to judicial vacancies, nominations and confirmations, and why it’s very likely that the Senate is going to keep moving at full speed on nominations when it reconvenes in early September.
The Senate has confirmed 99 judges to the federal federal district courts since the beginning of the current administration, with a record 46 since January 2019.
You may recall that in April, the Senate changed its rules and reduced the number of hours of debate on district court nominees, a move that was desperately needed to clear the backlog of nominees for the federal judiciary.
Prior to the rule change, from January 2017 to April 2019, an average of about 2 district court judges per month were confirmed. By comparison, from May 2019 to present, an average of about 10 district court judges have been confirmed per month.
In other words, we’ve seen five times as many monthly district court confirmations since the new Senate rule went into effect.
More broadly, the rule change is impacting all levels of the federal judiciary. Over the course of the current administration, there have been an average of about 5 judges per month confirmed to the federal judiciary at all levels. Since the change, that average has jumped to about 15 per month, approximately three times as many monthly federal judicial confirmations.
The confirmation rate at the appellate court level is unprecedented, to say the least.
In total, 43 judges have been confirmed to the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, 13 of them since January 2019.
Forty-three appellate confirmations represent approximately one-quarter (25%) of all appellate court seats. That’s 1 out of every 4 appellate judges who’ve been nominated by the current President and confirmed by the Senate.
More than just a sign of progress, it’s clear evidence that the Senate and the administration are fully-committed to seeing originalist judges being confirmed.
In fact, under the current administration, the Senate has confirmed approximately 60% more appeals court judges than any of the last seven presidents had confirmed at this point in their presidencies.
Think about it this way. At the beginning of his tenure, the President inherited 17 appellate court vacancies, and an additional 30 appellate court vacancies opened since he first took office. That’s a total of 47 appellate vacancies and 43 of them have been filled–that’s 91%–and a vast majority of them have been filled with excellent judges committed to applying the original text and intent of the U.S. Constitution.
The fast pace of confirmations means that right now there are only 4 appellate court vacancies to fill, including one critical vacancy at the 2nd Circuit that could flip that court to have a majority of conservative-appointed judges.
Though the administration and the Senate have made incredible progress, there are still over 110 vacancies, which means about 13% of federal judicial seats remain empty, a majority of them (97) at the district court level.
As of today, 35 nominees (including both district and circuit courts) are pending with the U.S. Senate, and many of those have been waiting more than 300 days for confirmation proceedings.
Nonetheless, with the Senate’s new rules and the resulting record pace of confirmations in recent months, we’re hopeful we’ll continue to see district court nominees confirmed faster and in larger numbers when the Senate reconvenes in September – and that would be a major step toward having more excellent federal judges who respect and uphold the Constitution.
America’s courts are critical to the preservation of your religious liberty, and that’s why judicial nominations are a top priority. Learn more about judges and the status of confirmations with our interactive maps and expert insight.