News and Commentary

Senate Goes On Judge-Approval Binge, One In Every Four Circuit Court Judges Now Trump Appointee
U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during an event about judicial confirmations in the East Room of the White House on November 6, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Republicans may not be in a hurry to schedule an impeachment trial — a feat made even more difficult by House Democrats’ refusal to release the articles of impeachment — but they’ve been pretty busy regardless. approving dozens of President Donald Trump’s nominees to various courts, largely remaking the American judicial system.

The Washington Post reports that a staggering 25% of circuit court judges — one in four people on the bench — are now Trump appointees, cementing the President’s legacy, and making good on one of Trump’s top campaign promises.

“When Trump took office, nine of the nation’s 13 circuit courts were dominated by Democratic appointees. Now, seven of them have Republican majorities,” the New York Post reports. “Trump has had 50 of his circuit-court judges confirmed — far more than any other recent president at this point in their first terms. President Barack Obama managed just half that number, 25, in the same time frame.”

“Altogether,” the outlet continues, “187 Trump-nominated federal judges have been confirmed by the Senate — outpacing the 169 new judges named by George W. Bush and the 166 brought on board by Bill Clinton in their first three years.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell is pretty proud of the achievement, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt last week that his “motto for the remainder of this Congress is ‘leave no vacancy behind.’”

The project has continued, unabated, even during the House’s impeachment hearings. On November 14th alone — the first day Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) officially opened House Intelligence Committee hearings on the subject — “the Senate approved a Trump-nominated judge that flipped the Manhattan-based Second Circuit to a Republican majority,” per the New York Post.

All in all, the Trump White House has impacted dozens of court systems, but perhaps none more dramatically than the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has the dubious designation of being the most reliably left-leaning — and, perhaps accordingly, the most overturned — Federal circuit.

“The Senate confirmation of Lawrence VanDyke and Patrick Bumatay to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month brought to nine the number of appointments President Donald Trump has made to the 29-member bench that serves as the last stop for nearly all legal complaints lodged in nine Western states,” Politico reports. “Democratic-appointed judges now hold a three-seat majority, compared with 11 at the start of Trump’s presidency.”

Trump targeted the Ninth Circuit, specifically, for change, and to that end, he’s succeeded dramatically. With just a few more years in office, Trump could, conceivably, flip the Ninth altogether, leaving Democrats without a reliable Federal Circuit court.

The nominees the Trump White House is sending to the Senate are more conservative than their predecessors, too, according to Trump’s liberal critics: “Daniel Goldberg, legal director of the liberal judicial advocacy group Alliance for Justice, stressed that beyond the numbers, Trump has appointed nominees with strong ideological views. That was the case with VanDyke, who was confirmed in a 51-44 vote on Dec. 11 after drawing criticism for past writings and opinions on same-sex marriage, abortion, labor and immigration.”

Trump has long stressed that he would repay voters who took a chance on him with real results, and on the judiciary, he may be able to call the changes a real win.