As Wisconsin lawyers well know, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has been working with less than its fully authorized complement of eleven active circuit judges since Judge Terence Evans took senior status in January 2010. The court continued with 10 active members until February 2015, when Judge John Tinder of Indiana retired. Then, in rapid succession last year, Judge Ann Claire Williams took senior status in June, and Judge Richard Posner retired in September, leaving two Illinois vacancies on the court and reducing the number of active judges to seven.
The work of the court continued, of course, with Senior Judges William Bauer, Kenneth Ripple, and Daniel Manion sitting regularly and the court calling on many district judges from the three states to sit with the court from time to time. But the personality and character of a federal court of appeals inevitably derive over time from its active judges, who sit together year after year in randomly selected panels of three and who, sitting together en banc, are the only organ of the court authorized to overrule published panel decisions.
Given the long unfilled vacancies in Wisconsin and Indiana, the speed with which the court has been returned to its full strength of eleven judges seems astounding.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana was confirmed to replace Judge Tinder on October 31 of last year. Then, within the last few days, Michael Brennan of Milwaukee was confirmed on May 10 to fill Judge Evans’s seat, and Michael Scudder and District Judge Amy St. Eve, both of Chicago, were confirmed on May 14 to replace Judges Posner and Williams, respectively. By sometime this summer the Seventh Circuit will once again be operating with all eleven active circuit judges. That leaves the circuit with seven district court vacancies: three in Northern Illinois, two in Northern Indiana, and one each in Southern Indiana and Eastern Wisconsin (Judge Rudolph Randa’s seat).