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Maybe this has always been the case, but it seems like the Courts have had an increasing role in how our elections work lately. Redistricting, new laws, etc. are becoming more common. And from a non-electorally focused POV, the Courts are always relevant, providing a constitutional bulwark against potential abuses of power by legislatures and executives.

So I wanted to provide a guide to how these courts look, so we can look at what decisions are coming from where through the proper lens.

A quick disclaimer: Judges are, of course, supposed to be nonpartisan and only follow laws and precedent, but that's not always the case. Even so, there can be divisions within the "partisan" divide. A G.H.W. Bush- or even Reagan-appointed judge is going to be less partisan than a G.W. Bush judge. Democratic-appointed judges are less likely to be partisan at all, but Obama-appointed judges are more likely to be more liberal than Clinton- or Carter-appointed judges. So this is not a definitive guide to how any particular court will decide a particular issue. But it can help. Thanks for reading.

Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)



HQ: U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C.

Republicans
Chief Justice John Roberts (G.W. Bush)
Antonin Scalia (Reagan)
Anthony Kennedy (Reagan)
Clarence Thomas (G.H.W. Bush)
Samuel Alito (G.W. Bush)

Democrats
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton)
Stephen Breyer (Clinton)
Sonia Sotomayor (Obama)
Elena Kagan (Obama)

Circuit Courts of Appeals


The Supreme Court has its Justices sit as "Circuit Justices" over each Circuit Court, where their main job is to be the point person to receive requests for stays or writs of certiorari and stuff like that. So that can be a handy guide over what can happen to cases from these courts on appeal.

Note: When listing Senior Judges, I exclude those who are listed as "inactive".

First Circuit Court of Appeals (1st Cir.)



HQ: John Joseph Moakley Courthouse, Boston, Mass.

Circuit Justice: Stephen Breyer

Appellate jurisdiction:
District of Maine
District of Massachusetts
District of New Hampshire
District of Puerto Rico
District of Rhode Island

Chief judge: Sandra Lynch (Clinton)

3 Republicans
1 Reagan
1 G.H.W. Bush
1 G.W. Bush

2 Democrats
1 Clinton
1 Obama

1 Vacancy

Senior Judges: 3 Republicans (1 Reagan, 2 G.H.W. Bush), 1 Democrat (Clinton). Also, former Associate Justice of the United States David Souter (G.H.W. Bush) frequently sits by designation

Second Circuit Court of Appeals (2nd Cir.)



HQ: Thurgood Marshall Courtnouse, New York City, NY

Circuit Justice: Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Appellate jurisdiction:
District of Connecticut
Districts of New York (E, N, S, W)
District of Vermont

Chief Judge: Dennis Jacobs (G.H.W. Bush)

8 Democrats
3 Clinton
5 Obama

5 Republicans
1 G.H.W. Bush
4 G.W. Bush

Senior Judges: 6 Democrats (2 Carter, 4 Clinton), 4 Republicans (1 Reagan, 2 G.H.W. Bush, 1 G.W. Bush)

Third Circuit Court of Appeals (3rd Cir.)



HQ: James A. Byrne Courthouse, Philadelphia, PA

Circuit Justice: Samuel Alito

Appellate jurisdiction:
District of Delaware
District of New Jersey
Districts of Pennsylvania (E, M, W)
District of the Virgin Islands

Chief Judge: Theodore McKee (Clinton)

7 Democrats
1 Carter
4 Clinton
2 Obama

6 Republicans
1 Reagan
5 G.W. Bush

1 Vacancy

Senior Judges: 8 Republicans (2 Nixon, 4 Reagan, 1 G.H.W. Bush, 1 G.W. Bush), 2 Democrats (1 Johnson (!), 1 Clinton)

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (4th Cir.)



HQ: Lewis F. Powell Courthouse, Richmond, VA

Circuit Justice: John Roberts

Appellate jurisdiction:
District of Maryland
Districts of North Carolina (E, M, W)
District of South Carolina
Districts of Virginia (E, W)
Districts of West Virginia (N, S)

Chief Judge: William Bryd Traxler, Jr. (Clinton)

10 Democrats
4 Clinton
6 Obama

5 Republicans
1 Reagan
1 G.H.W. Bush
3 G.W. Bush

Senior Judge: 1 Republican (G.H.W. Bush)

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (5th Cir.)



HQ: John Minor Wisdom Courthouse, New Orleans, LA

Circuit Justice: Antonin Scalia

Appellate jurisdiction:
Districts of Louisiana (E, M, W)
Districts of Mississippi (N, S)
Districts of Texas (E, N, S, W)

Chief Judge: Carl Stewart (Clinton)

10 Republicans
4 Reagan
6 G.W. Bush

5 Democrats
1 Carter
2 Clinton
2 Obama

2 Vacancies

Senior Judges: 5 Republicans (1 Reagan, 4 G.H.W. Bush), 2 Democrats (1 Carter, 1 Clinton)

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (6th Cir.)



HQ: Potter Stewart Courthouse, Cincinnati, OH

Circuit Justice: Elena Kagan

Appellate jurisdiction:
Districts of Kentucky (E, W)
Districts of Michigan (E, W)
Districts of Ohio (N, S)
Districts of Tennessee (E, M, W)

Chief Judge: Alice Batchelder (G.H.W. Bush)

10 Republicans
1 Reagan
1 G.H.W. Bush
8 G.W. Bush

6 Democrats
1 Carter
3 Clinton
2 Obama

Senior Judges: 5 Democrats (3 Carter, 2 Clinton), 4 Republicans (2 Reagan, 2 G.H.W. Bush)

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (7th Cir.)



HQ: Dirksen Federal Building, Chicago, IL

Circuit Justice: Elena Kagan

Appellate jurisdiction:
Districts of Illinois (C, N, S)
Districts of Indiana (N, S)
Districts of Wisconsin (E, W)

Chief Justice: Frank Easterbrook (Reagan)

7 Republicans
4 Reagan
1 G.H.W. Bush
2 G.W. Bush

3 Democrats
2 Clinton
1 Obama

1 Vacancy

Senior Judges: 3 Republicans (1 Ford, 2 Reagan) 1 Democrat (Carter)

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (8th Cir.)



HQ: Thomas H. Eagleton Courthouse, St. Louis, MO

Circuit Justice: Samuel Alito

Appellate jurisdiction:
Districts of Arkansas (E, W)
Districts of Iowa (N, S)
District of Minnesota
Districts of Missouri (E, W)
District of Nebraska
District of North Dakota
District of South Dakota

Chief Judge: William Riley (G.W. Bush)

9 Republicans
1 Reagan
1 G.H.W. Bush
7 G.W. Bush

2 Democrats
2 Clinton

Senior Judges: 3 Republicans (2 Reagan, 1 G.H.W. Bush), 1 Democrat (Johnson)

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (9th Cir.)



HQs: William A. Nakamura Courthouse, Seattle, WA
Pioneer Courthouse, Portland, OR
James R. Browning Courthouse, San Francisco, CA
Richard H. Chambers Courthouse, Pasadena, CA

Circuit Justice: Anthony Kennedy

Appellate jurisdiction:
District of Alaska
District of Arizona
Districts of California (C, E, N, S)
District of Hawaii
District of Idaho
District of Montana
District of Nevada
District of Oregon
Districts of Washington (E, W)
District of Guam
District of the Northern Mariana Islands

Chief Judge: Alex Kozinski (Reagan)

19 Democrats
2 Carter
12 Clinton
5 Obama

9 Republicans
2 Reagan
7 G.W. Bush

1 Vacancy

Senior Judges: 8 Democrats (6 Carter, 2 Clinton), 7 Republicans (2 Nixon, 3 Reagan, 2 G.H.W. Bush)

Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (10th Cir.)



HQ: Byron White Courthouse, Denver, CO

Circuit Justice: Sonia Sotomayor

Appellate jurisdiction:
District of Colorado
District of Kansas
District of New Mexico
Districts of Oklahoma (E, N, W)
District of Utah
District of Wyoming

Chief Judge: Mary Beck Briscoe (Clinton)

6 Republicans
1 G.H.W. Bush
5 G.W. Bush

4 Democrats
3 Clinton
1 Obama

2 Vacancies

Senior Judges: 6 Republicans (1 Nixon, 5 Reagan), 3 Democrats (1 Johnson, 2 Carter)

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (11th Cir.)



HQ: Elbert P. Tuttle U.S. Court of Appeals Building, Atlanta, GA

Circuit Justice: Clarence Thomas

Appellate jurisdiction:
Districts of Alabama (M, N, S)
Districts of Florida (M, N, S)
Districts of Georgia (M, N, S)

Chief Judge: Joel Frederick Dubina (G.H.W. Bush)

6 Democrats
4 Clinton
2 Obama

4 Republicans
1 Ford
2 G.H.W. Bush
1 G.W. Bush

 2 Vacancies

Senior Judges: 5 Republicans (2 Ford, 2 Reagan, 1 G.H.W. Bush), 2 Democrats (both Carter)

District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals (D.C. Cir.)



HQ: E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse, Washington, D.C.

Circuit Justice: John Roberts

Appellate jurisdiction:
District of Columbia

Chief Judge: David Sentelle (Reagan)

5 Republicans
1 Reagan
1 G.H.W. Bush
3 G.W. Bush

3 Democrats
3 Clinton

3 Vacancies

Senior Judges: 4 Republicans (3 Reagan, 1 G.H.W. Bush), 1 Democrat (Carter)

Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (Fed. Cir.)



HQ: Howard T. Markey National Courts Building, Washington, D.C.

Circuit Justice: John Roberts

Appellate jurisdiction:
Article I tribunals
Article III tribunals
Claims against the U.S. Government under the Tucker Act
Patent claims

Chief Judge: Randall Ray Rader (G.H.W. Bush)

5 Republicans
1 Reagan
2 G.H.W. Bush
2 G.W. Bush

5 Democrats
3 Clinton
2 Obama

2 Vacancies

Senior Judges: 4 Republicans (1 Reagan, 3 G.H.W. Bush), 1 Democrat (Clinton)

UP NEXT: The federal district courts

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