“In less than four years as president, President Trump has done nearly as much to shape the courts as President Obama did in eight years.
Trump hasn’t simply given lots of lifetime appointments to lots of lawyers. He’s filled the bench with some of the smartest, and most ideologically reliable, men and women to be found in the conservative movement. Long after Trump leaves office, these judges will shape American law — pushing it further and further to the right even if the voters soundly reject Trumpism in 2020.”
“Both Obama and Trump appointed two justices to the Supreme Court, but Trump’s impact on the highest Court far exceeds Obama’s, because Trump replaced the relatively moderate conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy with the hard-line conservative Brett Kavanaugh (after appointing conservative Neil Gorsuch to fill Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat). Obama’s appointees — Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — largely maintained the balance of power on a conservative Court, while Trump has shoved that Court even further to the right.
And that’s not counting Trump Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who is likely to be confirmed soon.
On the courts of appeal, the final word in the overwhelming majority of federal cases, more than one-quarter of active judges are Trump appointees. In less than four years, Trump has named a total of 53 judges to these courts, compared to the 55 Obama appointed during his entire presidency.
In their first terms, Obama appointed 30 appellate judges; President George W. Bush filled only 35 seats on the federal appellate bench; President Clinton, 30; President George H.W. Bush, 42; and President Reagan, 33.”
“Before he became president, Trump promised to delegate the judicial selection process to the Federalist Society, a powerful group of conservative lawyers that counts at least four Supreme Court justices among its members. “We’re going to have great judges, conservative, all picked by the Federalist Society,” Trump told a radio show hosted by the right-wingsite Breitbart while he was still a candidate.
The Federalist Society spent decades preparing for this moment, and they’ve helped Trump identify many of the most talented conservative stalwarts in the entire legal profession to place on the bench.”
” “The average age of circuit judges appointed by President Trump is less than 50 years old,” the Trump White House bragged in early November, “a full 10 years younger than the average age of President Obama’s circuit nominees.”
Trump’s nominees will serve for years or even decades after being appointed. Even if Democrats crush the 2020 elections and win majorities in both houses of Congress, these judges will have broad authority to sabotage the new president’s agenda.
There is simply no recent precedent for one president having such a transformative impact on the courts.”
“Broadly speaking, there are two reasons Trump has had such an outsize influence on the federal courts.
The first reason is the effective blockade Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell imposed on appellate court confirmations the moment Republicans took over the Senate. McConnell’s effort to block Supreme Court nominee MerrickGarland is well-known. Less well-known are the many lower court nominees who received similar treatment. Under Trump, McConnell has turned the Senate into a machine that churns out judicial confirmations and does little else — he’s ignored literally hundreds of bills passed by the House. Under Obama, by contrast, McConnell’s Senate was the place where judicial nominations went to die.
The numbers here speak for themselves. In the final two years of the Obama presidency, when Republicans controlled the Senate, Obama successfully appointed only two federal appellate judges — and one of those judges, Kara Farnandez Stoll, was confirmed to a highly specialized court that primarily deals with patent law.
By contrast, 10 such judges were confirmed during the same period in the George W. Bush presidency, a period when Democrats controlled the Senate.
The second reason for Trump’s outsize impact on the judiciary is that when Democrats last controlled the Senate, one especially important Democrat — Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (VT) — took an unusually expansive view of the rights of the minority party.”
“Leahy, who chaired the Committee for most of the Obama presidency, gave home-state senators a simply extraordinary power to block judicial nominees. Under Leahy, a single senator of either party could veto any nominee to a federal judgeship in their state”
“Red-state Republicans used the power Leahy gave them to hold many judicial seats open until Obama left office. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) effectively held a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit open for eight years until Trump could fill it.”
“The Eastland Rule also weakened Obama’s hand in negotiations with Senate Republicans, and sometimes forced him to name relatively conservative judges in order to placate senators who could veto judicial nominees.”
“While Trump has been very successful at filling the bench with brilliant Republican partisans, a Democratic president is unlikely to enjoy similar success.
A badly malapportioned Senate means that to get even a bare majority in the Senate, Democrats have to win commanding popular vote majorities —and if Democrats don’t control the Senate, Democratic nominees could face the Merrick Garland treatment. Just look at the last two years of the Obama presidency if you want to know how a Republican Senate is likely to treat Democratic judicial nominees.”