Despite Chaos Trump Is Reshaping the Federal Judiciary

Earlier in the week the US Senate confirmed Kevin Christopher Newsom to a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He is the fifth appeals court judge nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate. Via Business Insider:


Through July 14, roughly a week shy of Trump’s six-month anniversary in office, he had nominated 18 people for district judgeship vacancies, 14 for circuit courts and the Court of Federal Claims, and 23 for US attorney slots. During that same timeframe in President Barack Obama’s first term, Obama had nominated just four district judges, five appeals court judges, and 13 US attorneys. In total, Trump nominated 55 people, and Obama just 22.

Jeffrey Toobin from The New Yorker talks about what is happening:

While the tragicomic fall of Anthony Scaramucci was playing out at the White House on Monday, the mood was business as usual at the Capitol. There, the Senate was dealing with its own kind of personnel matter, one that, in the larger scheme, probably matters more than who happens to be the White House communications director of the week. To little notice, and with no fanfare, the Senate moved toward confirming another of President Trump’s appointees to a lifetime seat on the federal Court of Appeals.

…Most notably, Newsom is also young for a federal judge—just forty-five—and a political conservative, as evidenced by his membership in the Federalist Society. (Earlier this year, I wrote about the role of the Federalist Society, and one of its leaders, Leonard Leo, in stage-managing Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch.) In light of his age, Newsom will likely serve for decades after the Trump Presidency has concluded.

So while the public watches Trump churn through White House staff members, his Administration is humming along nicely in filling federal judgeships, with the enthusiastic assistance of the Republican majority in the Senate. The first and most important victory for the President came with the confirmation of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, in a seat that Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate, kept vacant for nearly the full final year of Barack Obama’s Presidency. But McConnell didn’t just protect a Supreme Court seat for the next President; he basically shut down the entire confirmation process for all of Obama’s federal-judgeship nominees for more than a year. It’s the vacancies that accumulated during this time—more than a hundred of them—that Trump’s team is now working efficiently to fill.


Part of the reason for success is that the district judges nominated thus far have been from Red States. Once nominees are made to the bench from Democrat states, those senators will have, by a Senate tradition that Senator Grassley has said he intends to honor, a veto over nominees. So the strong contingent shepherded through by the Federalist Society is going to have weak sisters in the mix. Grassley has been non-committal about allowing the veto process, called a “blue slip,” be applied to circuit courts. If he doesn’t allow that, Trump’s nominees could change the very character of some of the most liberal appeals courts in the nation.

The average federal judge spends 26 years on the bench. If the Trump administration keeps churning out nominees at this rate, Trump will leave a multi-generational mark on the federal judiciary.


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