List of Presidents of the United States by judicial appointments

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File:Washington (3).jpg
As the first president, George Washington appointed the entire federal judiciary. His record of ten Supreme Court appointments still stands.
President Ronald Reagan appointed 376 federal judges, more than any other president.

Following is a list indicating the number of Article III federal judicial appointments made by each President of the United States. The number of judicial offices has risen significantly from the time when Washington's 38 appointments were sufficient to maintain the entire federal judiciary for eight years. As of January, 2009, there are 866 authorized Article III judgeships - nine on the Supreme Court, 179 on the Courts of Appeals, and 678 for the district courts.

To date, Ronald Reagan has appointed the largest number of federal judges, with 376, followed closely by Bill Clinton with 373. William Henry Harrison, who died a few weeks after his inauguration, is the only president to have appointed no federal judges.

How appointments are counted

In many instances, the number of judgeships appointed is fewer than the number of people appointed as judges, because a president may appoint the same person as a judge to different courts over the course of his presidency. For example, George W. Bush appointed John G. Roberts to the D.C. Circuit, and later appointed him to the Supreme Court. There are also instances in which an individual is appointed to multiple district courts in a single state. As recently as 2001, George W. Bush appointed James H. Payne to the Eastern, Western, and Northern Districts of Oklahoma.

In some rare instances, a federal judge resigns their judgeship, and is later reappointed to a federal judgeship - possibly even to the same court - by a different president. A noted example of this is that of Charles Evans Hughes, who resigned from the United States Supreme Court to run for president against Woodrow Wilson, and was later returned to the Court as Chief Justice of the United States by Herbert Hoover. Another rare situation occurs where a court that has not been specifically designated as an Article III court is transformed into an Article III court. This occurred in 1958 when the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals was changed from an Article I court to an Article III court. In that case, judges who were not initially appointed to an Article III court may become Article III judges without being specifically appointed by the sitting president, or approved by the sitting Senate. However, judges on such bodies have previously been appointed to Article I courts by the president, and those appointments have been approved by the Senate, which must also vote in favor of the legislation that would change the status of such judges. Appointments to Article I courts are not counted in each president's total number of appointments.

The list does not include nominees who were rejected by Congress before having served, but does include the twenty-two recess appointments who were not confirmed by the Senate after having served for some period. The most famous instance of such a post-appointment rejection is that of George Washington's recess appointment of John Rutledge as Chief Justice during a congressional recess in July, 1795. Because of Rutledge's political views and occasional mental illness, the Senate rejected his nomination in December of that year, and Rutledge subsequently attempted suicide and then resigned.

Judicial appointments by president

President Supreme
Circuit courts/[1]
Courts of appeals
District courts Total
Washington, GeorgeGeorge Washington 10 n/a[2] 28 38
Adams, JohnJohn Adams 3 16[3] 4 23
Jefferson, ThomasThomas Jefferson 3 7[4] 9 19
Madison, JamesJames Madison 2 2 9 13
Monroe, JamesJames Monroe 1 0 21 22
Adams, John QuincyJohn Quincy Adams 1 0 11 12
Jackson, AndrewAndrew Jackson 6 0 18 24
Van Buren, MartinMartin Van Buren 2 0 8 10
Harrison, William HenryWilliam Henry Harrison 0 0 0 0
Tyler, JohnJohn Tyler 1 0 6 7
Polk, James K.James K. Polk 2 1 7 10
Taylor, ZacharyZachary Taylor 0 0 4 4
Fillmore, MillardMillard Fillmore 1 0 4 5
Pierce, FranklinFranklin Pierce 1 3[4] 12 16
Buchanan, JamesJames Buchanan 1 0 7 8
Lincoln, AbrahamAbraham Lincoln 5 0 27 32
Johnson, AndrewAndrew Johnson 0 0 9 9
Grant, Ulysses S.Ulysses S. Grant 4[5] 10 32 46
Hayes, Rutherford B.Rutherford B. Hayes 2 4 16 22
Garfield, James A.James A. Garfield 1 1 3 5
Arthur, Chester A.Chester A. Arthur 2 4 13 19
Cleveland, GroverGrover Cleveland 4 2/9[6] 30 45
Harrison, BenjaminBenjamin Harrison 4 2/10[6] 26 42
McKinley, WilliamWilliam McKinley 1 6 28 35
Roosevelt, TheodoreTheodore Roosevelt 3 19 53 75
Taft, William HowardWilliam Howard Taft 5[7] 13 38 56
Wilson, WoodrowWoodrow Wilson 3 20 52 75
Harding, Warren G.Warren G. Harding 4 6 42 52
Coolidge, CalvinCalvin Coolidge 1 17 61 79
Hoover, HerbertHerbert Hoover 3 16 43 62
Roosevelt, Franklin D.Franklin D. Roosevelt 8[7] 51 134 193
Truman, Harry S.Harry S. Truman 4 27 101 132
Eisenhower, Dwight D.Dwight D. Eisenhower 5 45 129 179
Kennedy, John F.John F. Kennedy 2 21 102 125
Johnson, Lyndon B.Lyndon B. Johnson 2 40 126 168
Nixon, RichardRichard Nixon 4 46 181 231
Ford, GeraldGerald Ford 1 11 50 62
Carter, JimmyJimmy Carter 0 56 203 259
Reagan, RonaldRonald Reagan 3[7] 83 290 376
Bush, George H. W.George H. W. Bush 2 42 148 192
Clinton, BillBill Clinton 2 66[8] 305 373
Bush, George W.George W. Bush 2 62[8] 261 325
Obama, BarackBarack Obama 2 55 266 323
TOTAL 113[9] 766
2,875 3,753

Article I appointments

The appointment of Article I judges is more difficult to count, because a large number of positions appointed by the president have quasi-judicial functions. Some Article I judges, however, are clearly designated, such as the judges of the United States Court of Claims, the United States Tax Court, and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. As with Article III judges, the number of Article I appointees that could be characterized as judges increased substantially beginning in the twentieth century.


  1. The appellate jurisdiction of the United States circuit courts was abolished by statute on June 16, 1891, in favor of newly created United States courts of appeals. Most circuit court judges who were in office were transferred to the courts of appeals by operation of law, that is, without action on the part of the sitting president or the United States Senate.
  2. During Washington's tenure in office, only the Supreme Court and the district courts had been established.
  3. Many of the United States circuit court appointments made by John Adams were to positions created in the Midnight Judges Act, and subsequently abolished by the repeal of that act on July 1, 1802.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Because of the unique structure of the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, the elevation of a sitting judge to the office of Chief Judge of the Court is considered a separate appointment; this occurred on two occasions, with Thomas Jefferson's elevation of William Cranch, and Franklin Pierce's elevation of James Dunlop.
  5. Grant also appointed Edwin M. Stanton to the Supreme Court in 1869; Stanton was confirmed and sworn in, but died before taking seat.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison were the only presidents to appoint judges to both the circuit courts and the courts of appeals.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Also elevated a sitting Associate Justice to Chief Justice of the United States.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are credited for the appointment of Court of Appeals judge Roger Gregory; Clinton made a recess appointment of Gregory in 2000, and Bush renominated Gregory to the seat in 2001, prior to the expiration of the recess appointment.
  9. Only 112 Supreme Court Justices have actually served; Charles Evans Hughes was appointed by two different presidents, once by William Howard Taft, and later (after having resigned from the Court) by Herbert Hoover.