With 11 Judicial Vacancies, Texas Has Most Open Court Seats in Country

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
With 11 Judicial Vacancies, Texas Has Most Open Court Seats in Country

A lot of attention is currently focused on the Supreme Court vacancy that resulted from the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

In Texas, 11 of our federal court seats don't have a judge, far more than any other state in the country. Nine of those vacancies qualify as "emergency vacancies" - which means the delays are of extraordinary length and creating a back-up in the courts.

Several of the court seats have been vacant for years. When the length of all the vacancies are added together, Texas has had 6,862 days without judges on the courts. That's almost 19 years of judicial vacancies, just for Texas!

As we've written many times  before, our courts matter

Texas' federal courts make rulings on almost every issue important to our state. While so much attention is given to the Supreme Court, it's critical to remember that dozens of federal judges in Texas have lifetime appointments to serve on lower federal courts, where they hear hundreds if not thousands of times the number of cases the Supreme Court hears.

The Supreme Court is considering landmark cases on abortion, climate change, immigration, affirmative action, workers’ rights, and redistricting. Half of those cases - abortion, affirmative action, and immigration - have come through Texas courts.

The Supreme Court vacancy is critically important, but the staggering delay in filling Texas' federal court seats may actually be more important for those Texans seeking their day in court.

Judicial Vacancies in Texas - 2/18/16
CIRCUIT/DISTRICTEMERGENCYLENGTH OF VACANCYNOMINEE
5th Circuit Court of AppealsYes1,296 daysNone
5th Circuit Court of AppealsYes779 daysNone
Southern DistrictYes1,723 daysNone
Southern DistrictYes639 daysNone
Northern DisrictYes960 daysNone
Northern DistrictNo414 daysNone
Northern DistrictNo15 daysNone
Western DistrictYes370 daysNone
Eastern DistrictYes345 daysNone
Eastern DistrictYes279 daysNone
Eastern DistrictYes42 daysNone
Future Vacancies
Northern DistrictFuture05/01/16-