Fourth Circuit Vacancies; President Obama Will Have 4 of 15 Judicial Positions to Fill

Lewis F Powell Jr. Courthouse, Richmond, Virginia 2/1/09: The US Fourth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals hears appeals from fed­er­al dis­trict courts in West Vir­ginia, Vir­ginia, Mary­land, North Car­oli­na, and South Car­oli­na. The Fourth Cir­cuit has 15 judges when all of the judi­cial posi­tions are occu­pied. How­ev­er, 4 of the 15 judge posi­tions are cur­rent­ly vacant. That means that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma will be able to appoint those 4 judges.

Appoint­ments to these fed­er­al judi­cial posi­tions require the con­fir­ma­tion by the US Sen­ate. The Democ­rats con­trol at this time 58 votes in the Sen­ate, through 56 Democ­rats and 2 Inde­pen­dents (Joe Lieber­man, CT; Bernie Sanders VT) who cau­cus with the Democ­rats. If Al Franken even­tu­al­ly is declared the win­ner in Min­neso­ta, which is expect­ed, the democ­rats will have 59 votes. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma only needs 51 votes to con­firm one of his judi­cial nom­i­na­tions. If the Repub­li­cans chose to fil­i­buster any of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s nom­i­na­tions, the Democ­rats need 60 votes for clo­ture to cut off the fil­i­buster and force a vote (clo­ture requires a three-fifths vote of the vot­ing Sen­a­tors). If the Democ­rats will be start­ing with 59 votes, they will like­ly fre­quent­ly be able to “peel off” a Repub­li­can or two to break the fil­i­buster.

Fed­er­al court of appeals nom­i­na­tions are usu­al­ly made from lawyers with sig­nif­i­cant pri­or judi­cial expe­ri­ence. So the pool of lawyers to be con­sid­ered will like­ly by the cur­rent fed­er­al dis­trict judges, and, less like­ly, cur­rent state court judges.

Giv­en Pres­i­den­tial his­to­ry since 1980, the sub­stan­tial major­i­ty of fed­er­al judges are appointees of Repub­li­can Pres­i­dents (20 years of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­cy ver­sus 8 years of Demo­c­rat pres­i­den­cy).

Fourth Circuit MapOf the cur­rent 11 judges on the Fourth Cir­cuit, 6 were Repub­li­can appointees and 5 were Demo­c­ra­t­ic appointees (although Judge Gre­go­ry was a “hybrid” hav­ing orig­i­nal­ly been appoint­ed by Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and then re-appoint­ed by Pres­i­dent George W. Bush). You can view a chart on Wikipedia that sets out the line­up of cur­rent judges and the Pres­i­dents who appoint­ed them

Assum­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma fills all 4 cur­rent vacan­cies, then we will have a realign­ment on the Fourth Cir­cuit to: 9 Demo­c­rat appointees, and 6 Repub­li­can appointees.

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Drew M. Capuder

Publisher of Drew Capuder's Employment Law Blog. Lawyer with more than 29 years experience, focusing on employment law, commercial litigation, and mediation. Extensive trial and appellate experience in state and federal courts. Call Drew at 304-333-5261
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One thought on “Fourth Circuit Vacancies; President Obama Will Have 4 of 15 Judicial Positions to Fill”

  1. Traxler may have been appoint­ed by Clin­ton, but he’s from Greenville, SC. They think Lind­sey Gra­ham is a bed-wet­ting lib­er­al up there. Traxler isn’t to be con­fused with Souter or Gins­burg…

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