Main content

Status of Article III Judgeships - Judicial Business 2017

On September 30, 2017, a total of 20 vacancies existed among the 179 judgeships authorized for the U.S. courts of appeals. Six of these vacancies had been unfilled for more than 18 months. One year earlier, the courts of appeals had 12 vacancies, 6 of them for more than 18 months.

On September 30, 2017, a total of 120 vacancies existed among the 677 positions authorized in the U.S. district courts, 43 more than reported at the end of 2016. Sixty of the vacancies had existed for more than 18 months, 30 more than one year earlier. The majority of the vacancies arose when judges took senior status.

Sixty judicial emergencies were identified in the courts of appeals and district courts on September 30, 2017—25 more than one year earlier. For the courts of appeals, which had 11 judicial emergencies, a judicial emergency is defined as any vacancy where adjusted filings (i.e., filings excluding reinstated cases and weighting pro se appeals as one-third of a case) per panel are in excess of 700, or any vacancy in existence more than 18 months where adjusted filings are between 500 to 700 per panel. For the district courts, a judicial emergency is defined as a vacancy of any duration where weighted filings per judgeship are in excess of 600, or any vacancy longer than 18 months in a district court with weighted filings between 430 and 600 per judgeship, or any vacancy in a district court with more than one authorized judgeship and only one active judge. Forty-nine district courts had judicial emergencies at the end of the fiscal year.

In addition to active judges, 88 senior circuit judges with staff were serving the appellate courts at the end of the fiscal year, 3 more than in 2016. The U.S. district courts reported 400 senior judges with staff, 1 more than had been serving one year earlier.

For information on the status of judgeship positions since 2013, see Table 11.

Table 11
Status of Article III Judgeship Positions
September 30, 2013 - 2017
  U.S. Courts of Appeals U.S. District Courts
Year Authorized
Vacancies Senior 
Vacancies Senior 
2013 179 17 89 677 75 346
2014 179 10 89 677 50 386
2015 179 9 84 677 58 396
2016 179 12 85 677 77 399
2017 179 20 88 677 120 400
1 Senior judges who participated in appeals dispositions and were authorized for staff.
2 Senior judges authorized for staff.