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The Supreme Court held its first Conference of the new year on Friday, January 6, and orders are expected to be released on Monday morning. The Court appeared in this past week’s news in other ways, however. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog reported that Merrick Garland’s nomination had officially expired on January 3rd. Judge Garland will continue to serve on the D.C Circuit, but the expiration of this SCOTUS nomination leads the way for President-elect Trump to nominate the next Justice once he takes office. Bridget Bowman of Roll Call reported that the new Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer stated this week that he is prepared to block Trump’s nominee to the Court if he or she is not “mainstream.” Currently, Trump needs the support of at least 8 Democrats to fill the vacant seat, as 60 votes are needed to end the filibuster to a nomination and fill the seat, and Republicans only hold 52 seats. The Republican-controlled Senate, however, could eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, as the Democrats did for executive-branch nominees and lower court judges when they controlled the Senate in 2013. Schumer made clear that he will use any leverage he has to block Trump’s nominee, and stated “We are not going to make it easy for them to pick a Supreme Court justice.”
Politico reported on Tuesday that President-elect Trump’s short list of picks for the next justice has narrowed to a half-dozen, and he and his advisors are considering nominees for a second appointment. Appointing the next Supreme Court Justice is apparently one of the first acts that Trump wants to complete after he takes office. Politico reported that 7th Circuit federal appeals court Judge Diane Sykes and 11th Circuit Judge William Pryor are two of the most discussed names to take the place of the late Antonin Scalia. Trump has reportedly told his advisors that he wants to pick someone who is not “weak” and has sought advice from a variety of personalities, including Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, and Senator Mike Lee.
Wrapping up 2016, Chief Justice John Roberts released his year-end report on the federal judiciary. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog reported that Justice Roberts focused the report on the “crucial role” that federal district judges play in the federal court system. He also noted recent changes made to federal civil court rules that give more control to district judges in early management of cases, and included statistics on the workload of the federal courts. In a New York Times piece entitled What the Chief Justice Should Have Said, Linda Greenhouse criticized the report for failing to address the Supreme Court vacancy that will soon reach its one-year anniversary.