We are now stans of Judge Victoria Roberts.

Judge Roberts has been a United States district judge for the Eastern District of Michigan since 1998.

Joe Biden had only been president for about 90 minutes when Judge Roberts announced she would be taking senior status, creating a vacancy for the new president to fill.

February 24, 2021 will be my last day in regular active service as a United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan. I intend to continue to provide judicial and administrative services as a Senior Judge under 28 U.S.C. § 371(e)(1) and the Rules of the Sixth Circuit for Certification of Senior Judges. It has been my honor to serve.

With respect, I congratulate you on your election as the 46th President of the United States, and Kamala Harris on her election as Vice President.

She had that letter READY AND WAITING for the second Joe and Kamala were sworn in.

Show me the vacancies!


When an eligible judge like Judge Roberts takes senior status, she takes a smaller caseload, opening up a seat on her court. Over the last four years, monsters like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham encouraged Republican-appointed judges to take senior status and open up additional seats for them to fill.

But now, Joe Biden is the president and at least 38 judges on federal appellate courts who were appointed by Democrats are now eligible to take senior status.

January 20 wasn't just a great day because we replaced the guy before Joe Biden with Joe Biden; it was also great because it was the day Democrats officially took over as the majority party in the Senate.

And thank the fucking gods we managed to win the Senate, too, or you just know Mitch would have sat there glowering with his thumb up his ass for four years, refusing to even hold hearings on Biden's nominees. That's exactly what Mitch did to President Barack Obama, giving the absolute monster that followed more than 100 seats to fill as soon as he took office.

In the end, the last president appointed three justices to the Supreme Court, 54 judges to federal appellate courts, and 174 judges to federal district courts. That is an absolutely massive number of judges to come from a one-term president. In just four years, Darth Vader appointed 54 appellate judges to Obama's 55, despite the fact that Obama actually won reelection — thanks, mostly, to the Republican Senate just refusing to confirm his judicial nominees for two straight years.

Now it's our fucking turn.

Mitch made sure to confirm as many Federalist Society-approved judges as possible while he had the chance. But President Biden already has several seats to fill. There are 44 district vacancies (including Judge Roberts's seat) and two appellate vacancies.

The typical practice for choosing federal judges starts with a state's US senators. Last month, Biden's now-White House Counsel, Dana Remus, sent a letter to Democratic senators about Biden's search for future federal judges. The letter also asked senators to recommend diverse candidates in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, disability, veteran status, and sexual orientation. A similar push by Jimmy Carter is how RBG was first nominated to the federal bench.

The letter also made an exciting new ask, requesting district court nominees "whose legal experiences have been historically underrepresented on the federal bench, including those who are public defenders, civil rights and legal aid attorneys, and those who represent Americans in every walk of life."

For far too long, the federal bench has been almost entirely staffed with former corporate defense lawyers and prosecutors. Even Obama, who put historic numbers of women and people who aren't white on the bench, nominated mostly people who came from a corporate law background.

For basically as long as they have existed, our federal courts have been filled with prosecutors and rich people who represent corporate clients. So it's not exactly shocking that, even when Democrats hold office, our federal courts are usually hostile towards criminal defendants and lawsuits that seek to hold big companies liable for wrongdoing.

Even the most earnest, well-meaning judge brings his implicit biases with him to the bench. Judges are, after all, human beings and not robots. Not to mention that the type of practice someone chooses to pursue can say a lot about their character and priorities. I really hope Biden follows through on this one — like adding diversity to the bench, adding legal diversity to the bench is more than just symbolic. Putting more public defenders, legal aid attorneys, and civil rights lawyers on the federal bench would be both meaningful and important.

If Democrats in general could pay more attention to courts, that would be great, too. Republicans are so much better than we are at getting worked up about judges — and it gets them what they want. A rightwing desire to strip bodily autonomy away from women and pregnant people helped bring out voters in 2016. Rightwing sexists now have a supermajority on the highest court in the land.

The Supreme Courts gets all the recognition — and for good reason! It does get the final say on the US Constitution! — but most judicially created law is made in our lower courts. Our federal circuit courts hear tens of thousands cases annually, as opposed to SCOTUS's 100-150.

Republicans now have a majority of the seats on seven of our 13 circuit courts of appeal. Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell were so efficient at confirming as many bootlickers as possible that last fall there were zero federal appellate vacancies for the first time in four decades.

The Senate, blue slips, and you

When the dust has settled, the Diet Coke button has been removed, and the Senate gets to work on confirming judges, one way or another, you're probably going to end up hearing a lot about blue slips.

There's nothing about blue slips in the Constitution, but they've been a Senate tradition for over 100 years. The actual blue slip is a piece of paper that a senator uses to say they approve of a judicial nominee from the state they represent. If a senator withholds the blue slip, that shows they don't approve of a nominee. This can be — and has been — used to stall confirmation proceedings, sometimes indefinitely.

The last time Democrats held the Senate, they decided to just piss away the opportunity to confirm as many judges as possible. It's basically up to the Judiciary chair to decide how much emphasis to put on blue slips. When Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy chaired Judiciary, he would let a single Republican senator indefinitely block a judge from his state.

The result? Republicans blocked an absurd number of Obama's judicial nominees. Those seats were eventually filled by the grim reaper and death himself.

We don't know yet how much weight Senator Dick Durbin, the new head of the Judiciary Committeee, intends to give blue slips.

Under the last administration, Chuck Grassley abandoned the blue slip tradition for appellate courts. Lindsey Graham did the same, respecting blue slips for district court nominees but not appellate nominees.

Durbin was not happy about Chuck Grassley doing away with the blue slip tradition for circuit courts, but right now we just don't know whether or not he's going to reinstate it. Though it would be a very Democratic thing to take a win and use it to give power right back to Republicans.

[Detroit News / Twitter / HuffPo / Vox / Slate / Bloomberg Law]

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.
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