How Many Judicial Vacancies Are Left for the Senate to Fill?
Senate Republicans have been appointing judges at a record pace during the Trump administration but there are still dozens of vacancies left to fill at the federal level.
There were 79 vacancies at the federal judiciary as of June 18, according to a database from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. More than half of those vacancies—47—have nominees that are currently waiting for congressional approval.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it a mission to fill as many empty judicial positions as possible before the November election when both President Donald Trump and control of the Senate will be on the ballot. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt back in February, McConnell (R-Ky.) said his “motto for the year is ‘leave no vacancy behind.’”
“That includes district courts as well. And so we’re a long way from being finished with doing court confirmations this year,” he said.
Trump inherited 108 lifetime federal judicial vacancies when he entered office in 2017, the most for an incoming president since Bill Clinton in 1992. The Senate has since confirmed nearly 200 judicial nominees selected by the president, including two Supreme Court justices and 51 appeals judges.
Republicans have their eyes on even more appointments before Election Day. Last month, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urged older judges to retire so even more Trump appointees could be packed into the court system.
“This is a historic opportunity,” Graham told Hewitt during an interview. “So if you’re a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status; now would be a good time to do that if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of center. This is a good time to do it.”
A large majority of Trump’s judicial appointees have been white men. According to a report released earlier this year by the progressive judicial advocacy group the Alliance for Justice, 85 percent of new judges approved under this administration are white and nearly 76 percent of them are men.
Democrats have vowed to make the courts a key issue ahead of the 2020 election. In May, Democratic leaders in the Senate released a report alleging that the GOP had “captured” the federal judiciary through a strategy “well-funded by millions of dollars in anonymous, special-interest money.”
“Now, with the addition of two hundred life-tenured Trump judges—more ideologically extreme and less experienced than any crop of judges in our nation’s history—our federal courts risk becoming little more than an arm of the Republican Party’s big donors,” the report said.