Trump puts a conservative stamp on federal courts
We've noted before that the Trump administration has made big strides in its first months in office reshaping the federal judiciary in ways that haven't gotten a lot of media attention. As this item in National Review from Sens. Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell makes clear, those changes have been downright historic:
After starting the year off with the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Senate has focused much of its attention on evaluating Trump’s candidates for lower-court vacancies. All told, the Senate confirmed a record twelve nominees to appellate courts — more than have been confirmed in the first year of any president since the creation of the circuit courts in 1891.
And it's happened despite the best efforts of Senate Democrats:
Despite a coordinated obstruction campaign by Democrats, the Senate confirmed 19 exceptionally well-qualified federal judges this year, including Justice Gorsuch and the record-setting twelve circuit-court judges. Together, they embody a legacy of jurists dedicated to interpreting the law and the Constitution as written regardless of their own policy preferences or personal views. After all, judges were never intended to be lawmakers in robes.
They also embody a diverse and well-rounded array of legal experience. Of the twelve newly minted circuit court judges, seven previously clerked for U.S. Supreme Court justices. Ten clerked at the federal appellate level. Five judges have prior experience on the bench at the federal district or state level. Judges Allison Eid, Joan Larsen, and Don Willett served as Supreme Court justices for their respective states. Half of the class served at various posts in the Justice Department, and five judges previously held state government positions in the legal discipline. Seven hail from academia, including Judges Joan Larsen and Stephanos Bibas. Judge Amul Thapar is the first South Asian appointed as a federal judge and the first appointed to the Sixth Circuit. Judge James Ho is the first Asian American appointed to the Fifth Circuit. All twelve earned their stripes in private practice, including many highly esteemed law firms.
As Grassley and McConnell note, there is still much work to be done on the judicial nomination front, and judges are sure to be a campaign issue in states with Senate elections.
Typically, the party of a sitting president in his first term loses seats in Congress. With the GOP holding a one seat advantage in the Senate right now, getting as many judicial nominations approved before the election is of huge importance for the President and conservatives. That doesn't mean the Senate should rubber stamp nominees -- each one needs to be fully vetted to ensure their competence to hold what is, effectively, a life time appointment.
But so far, so good. And let's hope many more are on the way.