Republican appointed judges at the federal district and appellate court levels are underweight. Right now 60% of district court judges are Democrat appointees, and 57% of appeals court judges are Democrat appointees. Only at the Supreme Court level do Republican appointees make a slight majority, 56% of judges. That’s about to change.
With Democrat Senator Harry Reid having eliminated the filibuster for judicial appointees, Republicans are set to fill blocks of vacant judicial seats with Trump appointees. If Republicans successfully fill all current judicial vacancies, GOP appointees will occupy 49.8% of district court seats, and 49.7% of appeals court seats. That’s nearly even with Democrats.
President Trump’s record so far shows that he will appoint strong originalist, constitutionalist judges to the bench. Paul Barrett and David Ingold write at Bloomberg:
As a candidate, Trump relied on suggestions from two establishment conservative groups, the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, to assemble a list of 21 potential high court picks. Gorsuch was on their list. Now Trump is pulling from the same compilation for his lower-court choices. One example is Allison Eid, whom Trump has nominated for the vacancy created by Gorsuch’s departure from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver. A member of the Colorado Supreme Court, Eid previously served as the state’s solicitor general and as a law clerk to the U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing elder, Justice Clarence Thomas.
Conservatives applauded Eid’s selection in June, as well as those of 10 other lawyers, judges and scholars. “It’s a fantastic list,” Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the right-leaning Judicial Crisis Network, said in a post on the National Review’s Bench Memos blog. “Many of the nominees are well known in the conservative legal movement.” Trump so far has nominated 15 people to the lower courts, including Stephanos Bibas, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who clerked for the Supreme Court’s swing vote, Anthony Kennedy, and has argued several cases before the justices. Bibas is up for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. Professor Amy Coney Barrett of the University of Notre Dame, who previously clerked for Scalia, was nominated for a seat on the the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.
Administration officials “know what they are looking for,” said Jonathan Adler, a conservative constitutional law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “Most of the appellate court nominees are current or former academics. That shows a desire for judges who will have an intellectual influence on the courts they’re placed on.” Noah Feldman, a liberal professor at Harvard Law School and Bloomberg View columnist, volunteered that “these are better picks than one might have expected—maybe better than one could have hoped.” Feldman attributed the quality of these early nominees to the administration’s having “outsourced judicial selection” to “elite conservative lawyers.”
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