There were 53 vacant judgeships in the federal district courts and the federal courts of appeals of the United States on January 1, 2009. That number climbed to 101 by January 1, 2010. The January 1st numbers for both years are currently available through the archives of the uscourts.gov website, which is maintained by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
The Summary of Judicial Vacancies page of the U.S. Courts website revealed that, as of January 22, 2010, 102 judgeships were vacant. The list of Current Judicial Vacancies includes three judgeships in the Southern District of Texas, which encompasses Houston’s U.S. District Court.
Two or the vacancies in the Southern District of Texas arose because Judges George Kazen and Hayden Head, Jr., became senior judges during 2009. A January 21, 2010, news release (“Work of Senior Judges Provides Much Help” ) from the U.S. Courts website explains that senior judges make a valuable contribution to the federal judiciary because they continue to work past retirement age and handle a significant portion of the caseload.
You can find a brief explanation of the term “senior judge” on the Frequently Asked Questions page of the U.S. Courts website. The Definitions page of the Federal Judicial Center’s website also gives an explanation of the term.
The third vacancy resulted from the criminal conviction of Samuel Kent, the former federal judge in Galveston who resigned while serving a prison sentence for obstruction of justice. The author’s July 3rd, June 26th, June 24th, and May 12th articles offer commentary and more details about the downfall of Mr. Kent.
Federal judicial vacancies rose 91% rise during 2009. Let's hope that one of the New Year’s resolutions for the President of the United States and the U.S. Senate was to start filling some of those vacant judgeships.