• Alexander Heller

Trump is on track to confirm more judges than any other president in their first term

| By Alexander Heller |


As of June 13th, Donald Trump has appointed the second-most federal judges in a president's first term. How did this happen? How does he compare to his predecessors? And what does it mean in the long run?




After an unprecedented rise to the presidency nearly four years ago, President Trump has presided over an equally unprecedented rate of judicial confirmations from Senate Republicans and himself. 1 in 4 circuit court judges are now Trump appointees, cementing a legacy that’s likely going to see [and ensure] a conservative tilt for decades to come.


Regardless of what the outcome will be in November’s election, Trump’s rate of judicial confirmations will probably never be seen again for at least a generation. As of June 13th, Trump is itching close to confirm the second-most federal judges in a president’s first term, and Senate Republicans are determined to keep up the pace.


Even if judicial appointments continue to be delayed by the Coronavirus Pandemic and Trump doesn’t get anymore confirmations, several big cases coming to the Supreme Court this term will likely determine what Trump's Conservative Revolution will look like in the courts in the not-too-distant future.



Trump’s First Term appointments outshines five of his predecessors



Trump’s number of appointments are greater than nearly all five of his predecessors during their first terms in office. Trump confirmed 51 judges to the Circuit Court alone in a span of 1240 days in office, overtaking Obama, Clinton, the Bushes and even Reagan in the number of confirmations.


He ranks third in the number of District Court judges he has confirmed as well. Clinton and the Bushes so far outrank Trump, but with a lot of time between now and Election Night that number is expected to go up exponentially.



The number of judges Trump has confirmed throughout his tenure is, in some cases, more than what some presidents are able to accomplish in two terms. It also helps that the reason Trump is able to confirm these judges at such an incredible rate is due in part by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.



How did this happen? Two words: Harry Reid



Despite Democrats gaining and retaining the Senate in 2008, 2010 and 2012, Senate Republicans, under the leadership of McConnell, relentlessly filibustered many of Obama’s judicial nominees.


As a response to the continuing blocking of several of Obama's nominees, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the so-called Nuclear Option and changed the Senate rules, meaning that a simple majority vote would suffice for all nominees except for (at the time) the Supreme Court.



This significantly sped up the pace of confirmations during 2014, especially to the district courts. However, once Republicans gained control of the Senate in 2015, Republicans effectively filibustered nearly all of Obama’s appointments, including the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016.


By the time Trump won in 2016, McConnell was quick to cash in on his bet for a Republican Presidency and pushed forward the judges he, and conservatives, wanted. Taking advantage of the Nuclear Option precedent set by Harry Reid and applying it to the Supreme Court, McConnell’s methodical approach towards the judiciary has all but guaranteed the court's movement towards the right.




Democrats will have a difficult time finding judges that support their initiatives. Among other things



The Circuit Court is fundamentally the most important level of the federal judiciary branch. Traditionally, it is here where most presidents choose to fill Supreme Court vacancies and where certain cases are appealed before heading to the Supreme Court.


Sadly, Democrats will have slim pickings when it comes to filling Circuit Court vacancies and appointments. Given that Trump and McConnell filled almost every vacancy left open during Obama’s term, it also doesn’t help that most of the conservative judges appointed by both Bush 43 and Trump are still relatively young.



If Democrats want to take the courts seriously, they need to address their age problem in the courts. Their biggest pool of candidates to fill whatever Circuit Court vacancies there are in the next Democratic presidency are judges appointed in the Clinton administration.


Their best chance to secure a young liberal base in the courts are judges appointed during the Obama administration, but even those are few and far between.


But that’s not the least of their worries.



Even if they win both the White House and the Senate, Democrats are poised to have a judiciary branch that will strike down nearly every initiative they put forward on the Senate floor.


McConnell may no longer be the-end-all-be-all authority when it comes to legislation, but the judges he appointed during Trump’s term will certainly make life harder for Democrats in the courts; not to mention the possibility for the new conservative courts to chip away at many landmark precedents, such as abortion and gay marriage, in the next 10 years.


Nevertheless, Trump’s legacy is expected to have profound effects in the nation's highest courts for many decades to come. What exactly those effects might be is still too early to tell, but so far it's not looking good for liberals.



For more on this article, contact Alexander Heller on Twitter @AFXHeller

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