Editorials and Opinion
The Third Circuit has 3 open seats. Who should fill them? (CA3blog, 04/17/17)
Matthew Stiegler: First, all three seats need to be filled. ... Second, at least two of the three seats should be filled by women. The Third Circuit has only two active judges who are women, the worst gender imbalance of any circuit in the country. Perpetuating that imbalance is unthinkable.
Third, both the Rendell seat and the Fuentes seat should be filled by consensus picks. The precedents here are Judges Greenaway and Vanaskie, both nominated by President Obama with a Democratic-controlled Senate to fill seats that opened during President Bush’s presidency. Both were moderate centrists — Greenaway was a federal criminal prosecutor and corporate counsel who clerked for a Republican-nominated judge, Vanaskie was MDPA chief judge with a decade and a half on the federal bench and was a Scranton commercial litigator before that. And both were over 50 when commissioned — Greenaway 52, Vanaskie 56.
Yes, Republicans may have stolen the Rendell and Fuentes seats from Democrats by obstruction .... Democrats may fight to fill the Rendell seat with a moderate Democrat, arguing that Republicans stole the seat by Toomey’s indefensible obstruction of Haywood and citing President Clinton’s compromise nomination of Republican Judge Barry as a precedent. That was my view before .... But if Trump tries to fill all three seats with young conservative partisans? Expect a war.
Why Opposing Trump Isn't Like the GOP Obstructing Obama: The political press won't stop gaslighting anti-Trump Democrats and progressives (Rolling Stone, 04/14/17)
Joshua Holland: In the 230-year period between the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and Barack Obama's election, opposition parties blocked a grand total of 68 presidential nominees. In the three years and 10 months between Obama's inauguration and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's move to eliminate the filibuster for lower court nominees, Republicans had blocked 79 of them – that's 54 percent of the historic total in just under four years. ... Mitch McConnell, moved to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees after the Democrats filibustered Donald Trump's pick, Neil Gorsuch, who had come off as aloof and unresponsive during his confirmation hearings and offered no reason for refusing to meet with two (women) Democratic senators. ... Obama's nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland, is the only candidate in the history of the United States to be denied a hearing by the opposition. ... Democrats and progressives are outraged that Republicans effectively stole a seat that might have shifted the Court's ideological balance to the left for the first time since 1971. But the both-sides-do-it reporting we've seen makes their fury seem illogical, a simple case of sour grapes.
A Toxic Threat to Justice: Democrats must stop the GOP's Supreme Court salvo from also poisoning lower courts. (U.S. News & World Report, 04/07/17)
Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice: Senate Republicans deploying the so-called nuclear option to confirm Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch marks a sad day in history not only for the Senate, but also for justice.,,, Thanks in large part to GOP stonewalling of judicial nominees under Barack Obama, President Donald Trump already has a whopping 120 lower-court vacancies to fill, 19 on circuit courts. His administration has made clear it intends to appoint younger, conservative ideologues with many years to serve, and to jettison the role of the American Bar Association in evaluating candidates for the bench.... With a fired-up base, Senate Democrats have every reason to prioritize circuit court nominations now. They should insist the president avoid nominating judges whose philosophies are extreme.... The "blue-slip" process is a venerable tradition that gives home-state senators power to say whether nominees from their states will advance. Such tactics should not be abused, but they exist.... Obama regularly consulted with Republican senators on finding the best-qualified judicial nominees.
It's Hard Not To Hate Mitch McConnell: There's Main Street hypocrisy, there's Washington D.C. hypocrisy, and then there's Mitch McConnell in a category all of his own. (Daily Banter, 04/06/17)
Justin Rosario: On Thursday, McConnell finally took the penultimate step of stealing a Supreme Court seat from a Democratic president by doing away with the filibuster so the Democrats could no longer block the pro-corporate ideologue Neil Gorsuch. This move comes after McConnell refused for over 10 months to even hold hearings for Obama's nominee, the eminently qualified and very centrist Merrick Garland. Republicans also threatened to block any Justice then-presumed winner Hillary Clinton would nominate .... McConnell has been justifying his move to eliminate the judicial filibuster entirely because he previously forced the Democrats to eliminate it for federal judges: ... He is, of course, forgetting to mention that Republicans had made unprecedented, in over two hundred years of American history, use of the filibuster to block Obama's judicial nominees. And they did it under McConnell's direction
Ethics Forum: Age Should Not Be a Factor When Considering Federal Judicial Appointments (Legal Intelligencer, 04/06/17)
Samuel C. Stretton: there's been an informal understanding in Pennsylvania that no one would get appointed to the federal bench if they were older than 62. ... Of interest is President Donald Trump's administration which has at least informally lowered that age to 50.... There are many attorneys in their 50s and early 60s who would be excellent federal judges and who would be precluded if there is this arbitrary and informal understanding that 50 is the cut-off age. There appears to be no good reason to have such a low age cutoff. ... the political consideration of having a like-minded person on the court for 30 years is really not a valid good reason to support a cutoff of 50 years. ... Age 50 limitations clearly are a mistaken attempt to make these appointments political, i.e., I want someone who thinks my way and who will be there for the next 30 or 40 years.... The only considerations should be competency, experience, fairness and knowledge.
Bill Price: Sens. Manchin, Capito should vote no on Gorsuch (Gazette) (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 04/06/17)
Bill Price, Sierra Club: Judge Gorsuch appears to be as hostile to citizen enforcement as Scalia, if not more so. On three separate occasions, he has denied access to the courts for environmental groups to federal courts, relying on cramped views of what it takes to establish access to the federal courts. He has written about his disdain for public interest litigation, a dangerous view of the environmental laws that have safeguarded this country’s air, water and wilderness from devastating harms.
[Editorial] McConnell reaps harvest of division (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 04/05/17)
"During his years as minority leader, McConnell wielded Senate rules, such as the 60-vote requirement, like no one ever before. McConnell’s goal: block President Barack Obama’s appointments and legislative agenda. Last year, as majority leader, McConnell refused to give Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland so much as a hearing on the invented grounds that the appointment rightfully belonged to the next president.
Interestingly, McConnell refused during a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press” to support formalizing his invented rule .... he has only his past actions to blame for Democrats’ stubbornness. ... Democrats, logically enough, think that easing Gorsuch’s confirmation would reward McConnell’s intransigence on the Obama nominee.... McConnell was so effective at blocking Obama’s nominees that President Donald Trump inherited almost twice as many judicial vacancies (an estimated 103) as Obama did (53).
Eroding the 60-vote requirement, also known as the filibuster, does alter the nature of the Senate in ways that McConnell once decried. The Senate would become less consenus-oriented and deliberative .... The objections to Gorsuch are rooted in substance not politics alone. The Coloradan came off less qualified in person than on paper. His record reflects an intemperate zeal to dismantle protections for workers, consumers, clean water and air.... McConnell, who perfected the obstructionist model, is reaping what he sowed."
Letter to the editor: Collins hypocritical in attacking Democrats’ filibuster (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 04/05/17)
Hani Jarawan: During the Obama presidency, the Republican Party ground the Senate to a halt by blocking everything. They left hundreds of lower court seats vacant. ... Not only did Susan Collins not criticize her party’s leadership for setting filibuster records, she also joined in that callow, historic obstruction. Her lame indignation about Democrats’ opposition to Neil Gorsuch is yet more evidence that decades of Washington partisanship have spoiled the senator’s moderation.
Letter: Mitch McConnell’s blame game (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 04/05/17)
Kendall Robins: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to exercise the nuclear option if the Democrats filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, and then says it will be on the Democrats if he does so.
That's just like a kidnapper threatening to kill the kid if the parents don't pay up, and then saying that the resulting murder would be the fault of the parents.
And, it's ironic that McConnell is still seething over the Democrats going nuclear on federal judge nominations, which was in response to McConnell clearly declaring 100 percent obstruction to anything and everything Barack Obama wanted to do, even if it was a good idea. And, it was McConnell who denied Obama, our duly elected president, any consideration at all for his nomination of Merrick Garland.
[Editorial] Filibuster Gorsuch to make a crucial point (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 04/05/17)
"South Carolina’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham, led the charge in denying Merrick Garland a hearing after then-President Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court seat that needed to be filled in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr underscored just how extreme the GOP has become when he declared that even if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, he would “do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court.”
He also bragged that he was already responsible for the longest judicial vacancy ever by denying the confirmation of an Obama nominee in the eastern district of North Carolina, illustrating just why Democrats felt the need to use the nuclear option for lower court appointments when they were in control. They did so in response to a Republican Party that routinely filibustered Obama nominees. While they haven’t gotten as much attention, that tactic left dozens of empty judicial seats throughout the country that can now be filled by President Donald Trump.... If Democrats simply went along and acted as though the GOP’s purposeful decision to leave the Supreme Court short-handed for a year was a legitimate exercise of political power, they would unwittingly be codifying that extremism.
And that would not be good for either party – or the country."
Blue Slips and the Trump Administration: What to Expect in the Coming Months (American Constitution Society Blog, 04/04/17)
Harsh Voruganti: one Senate practice may work to constrain Trump’s more conservative nominees and encourage him to work with Democrats: the blue slip.... the Trump Administration should expect Democratic Senators to use the blue slip process to pre-clear judicial nominees for their state. Under the Obama Administration, Republican Senators took a similar stand, blocking nominees they viewed as insufficiently conservative.... Even if the Trump Administration chooses to pre-clear its nominees with home-state senators, Democrats may, consistent with the actions of Republican Senators, withdraw their support after nomination. In 2011, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) initially expressed support for the nomination of Steve Six to the Tenth Circuit. However, under pressure from conservative groups, he and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) came out in opposition to Six shortly after his hearing, essentially killing his nomination. Similarly, President Obama’s nomination to the Northern District of Georgia after Boggs, Judge Dax Erik Lopez, a Republican and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, was blocked by Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) after conservative groups objected to Lopez’s membership in Latino civic organizations. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) blocked two nominees to the Southern District of Florida, Judge William Thomas and Mary Barzee Flores, after initially indicating his support to the White House.
Editorial: Toomey’s rule change proposal threatens bipartisanship (Pitt News [PA] , 04/04/17)
The Pitt News Editorial Board: If Congressional Republicans thought they had gained the power to disregard the rules with their victories in last November’s elections, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., just signed onto a rules change to the Supreme Court nomination process that ... will likely harm both parties. The Pennsylvania senator announced last week at a press conference that he would support a move to modify the upper Congressional chamber’s rules in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court .... The GOP notably refused to consider Merrick Garland last year for Scalia’s seat. However, Senate Republicans were using this tactic of ignoring nominees long before they won control of the chamber. The GOP’s efforts to block Obama nominees to lower federal judgeships led to Senate Democrats in 2013 removing the procedural rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to confirm presidential nominees to these positions.
Despite this change, more than 10 percent of these judgeships are now vacant, in large part because Democrats in the Senate have not held a 51-vote majority since the 2014 midterm elections.... a change to a 51-vote majority rule would erode several elements of the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process that are vital to the institution’s integrity. Given Supreme Court justices’ power and long-term lengths, it’s important that individuals selected to be added both have majority support and appeal at least somewhat to citizens on both the left and right.... Toomey’s signing on to this proposed rules change is a short-sighted, lazy attempt to avoid doing the work of gaining bipartisan support for his party’s nominee, and will only contribute to the hyper-partisan atmosphere growing more and more omnipresent in Washington, D.C. If he is concerned about the integrity of the institution in which he serves, he will withdraw his support for this proposal.
How to End the Politicization of the Courts (New York Times, 04/04/17)
David Leonhardt, Op-Ed Columnist: Republicans have taken a much more aggressive, politicized approach to the courts than Democrats. The evidence:
Republicans have been bolder about blocking Democratic nominees than vice versa.... The gap between the parties would be even larger if Democrats hadn’t eliminated the filibuster on lower-court nominees in 2013, allowing Barack Obama finally to fill more judgeships. Even so, Trump has inherited a huge number of vacancies.... Republican nominees have been less centrist than Democratic nominees.... The Republicans’ strategy has been straightforward. They have tried to deny Democratic presidents a chunk of judgeships, hoping the nominations will roll over.... The strategy reached its apex last year, when the Senate blocked Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy, even with the highly qualified, and notably moderate, Garland. It was unprecedented. Republicans set out to flip a seat and succeeded. Now the Senate is preparing to confirm Gorsuch, likely to be another historically conservative justice.... Democrats are right to force McConnell to be the one who takes the partisan step of eliminating the Supreme Court filibuster. Likewise, Democrats should be aggressive in blocking Trump nominees to lower courts.... The country won’t return to a less politicized judiciary until both parties have reason to want it.
The 12 times Republicans insisted on a 60-vote threshold for Obama’s judicial nominees (American Constitution Society Blog, 03/30/17)
Christopher Kang, Guest Post: Many Senate Democrats believe that a Supreme Court nominee should be within the mainstream and therefore able to earn the support of 60 Senators. Given the stakes, this hardly seems unreasonable, but Republicans now claim that a 60-vote threshold for judicial nominees would be unfair. Here are the 12 times they insisted on a 60-vote threshold for Obama’s lower court nominees—and, really, once Republicans demanded that a trial court judge in Rhode Island needed 60 votes, shouldn’t Democrats be able to ask for the same for the highest court in the land?
Maine Voices: Environmental stewards should stand together against Gorsuch: President Trump's nominee opposes the long-standing custom that courts defer to experts in government (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 03/25/17)
Ken Cline: Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge, has a record of extreme positions that proves he is too far outside the mainstream and too hostile to the environment for this critically important position. Gorsuch has been described as more extreme than Scalia, the most anti-environment justice in recent Supreme Court history.
Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy will limit the access of everyday Americans to the courts and prevent agencies like the EPA from doing their job to protect our air, water and health. This is a dangerous view that will favor polluters and industry over the rights of the people.
On at least three separate occasions, Gorsuch has denied access to the courts for environmental groups. Environmental laws without citizen access to the courts to enforce them are a hollow promise. ... We must hold the Senate to that 60-vote threshold..... Collins and King must raise their voices with us and reject Neil Gorsuch
The Gorsuch Nomination: A Setback for Human Rights (Huffington Post, 03/20/17)
Op-Ed by Prof. Bruce Hay: There are compelling reasons to have drummed up loud opposition to Gorsuch, notably the theft of this Supreme Court seat by unscrupulous Republicans and the fact that Gorsuch’s views are far out of the judicial mainstream .... The consequences for human rights and civil liberties of Democratic neglect of the judiciary – which includes not only allowing the GOP to steal Merrick Garland’s seat, but also leaving 25 percent of lower court seats unfilled at the expiration of the Obama presidency – have been dire.
If Gorsuch is confirmed, the legitimacy of the US supreme court won't recover (Guardian News and Media, 03/20/17)
Russ Feingold: Republicans will attempt to complete their cynical political takeover of the US supreme court, launched last year when they failed to confirm or to even give a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland. ... Confirming Gorsuch would endorse and normalize unconstitutional political games.... And it is not just the supreme court that will be affected, as the strategy will be used to block appointments to lower courts.
How Trump's Supreme Court Pick Quietly Wipes Out Environmental Cases: Green groups may never get their day in court. (Mother Jones, 03/20/17)
Rebecca Leber: Throughout his career, Gorsuch has found creative ways of throwing judicial roadblocks in front of environmental litigation. In many instances, Gorsuch has ruled that environmentalist groups don't have what is called "standing" to bring a case. ... If Gorsuch's logic were applied to other cases, plenty of environmental arguments would be at risk, says Grab. "Judge Gorsuch's approach in this case is potentially worrisome to any organization that might want to challenge an agency's tightening of a regulation as not being comprehensive enough," she notes .... Gorsuch has also attempted to limit the ability of green groups to defend environmental rules in court.
In Gorsuch, Conservative Activist Sees Test Case for Reshaping the Judiciary (New York Times, 03/18/17)
Eric Lipton and Jereney W. Peters: “Make no mistake,” Mr. Leo said in a speech last month at the Ronald Reagan Dinner at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “How we deal with this vacancy now, the strength that we as the pro-Constitution movement demonstrate in this fight, will determine the extent to which we are able to both nominate and confirm pro-Constitution judges as we move forward.”
Mr. Trump already has 124 judgeships to fill — a backlog created by Senate Republicans who blocked the confirmation of many of President Barack Obama’s nominees. That includes 19 vacancies on the federal appeals courts.
Because of the age of many judges today, the White House expects between 70 to 90 appeals court positions to open up over the next four years. That would give Mr. Trump the opportunity to fill anywhere from one-third to half of all appellate seats
How the Democrats Should Fight Gorsuch’s Nomination (Washington Monthly, 03/17/17)
Op-Ed by Martin Longman: the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should question the nominee closely about his views on antitrust law.... lifetime appointments deserve special scrutiny, and that they shouldn’t be made on the narrowest of partisan majorities.... When a president seeks to fill seats on district and appeals courts, he knows that he’ll need the support of the home state senators ... . the blue slip system is still in place and it provides moral guidance as well as an important precedent.
The second main principle that must be applied here is that the Republicans must not be allowed to effectively steal a Supreme Court seat without any consequences.... And if the Democrats put up some kind of faux-fight only to cave on the theft of this seat, they’ll not only buy themselves three or four decades more of Scalia-like jurisprudence on the Supreme Court, they’ll infuriate their base and show that they are so weak that they can be rolled, defeated and humiliated without the slightest downside for the Republicans.
[Editorial] Our view: Fill Erie’s federal judgeship now (Erie Times-News [PA], 03/16/17)
By the Editorial Board: Pennsylvania's senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey, have pledged to continue their bipartisan approach to federal judicial nominations under President Donald Trump and laid out the process for candidates to apply.
News of continued cooperation amid so much toxic division is welcome.
But what the senators' announcement omitted was the time, energy and hope already squandered to fill some judicial posts in the state, especially the U.S. District Court seat in Erie, which, to the disservice of northwestern Pennsylvania litigants, has been vacant for three and one-half years.... Baxter, a Democrat, and Marilyn Horan, a Butler County Republican nominated for a district court seat in Pittsburgh, breezed through placid hearings before the bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee, which in January 2016 unanimously advanced them for Senate confirmation.
There the nominations stalled, as Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, playing an unworthy, cynical game of naked politics, obstructed the process because, in his view, Obama already had nominated enough judges.... We urge them to quickly endorse Baxter again, and cross our fingers that the White House will eschew disruption and renominate her for the post in the name of good governance. If Baxter, and Horan, were quickly seated, that would help relieve the entire district, which is operating at a 40 percent judicial reduction.
Dark money pays for court ads (Billings Gazette [MT,WY], 02/24/17)
Dick Spalding, Letter to the Editor: We do have a crisis, in no small part because of forces like Judicial Crisis Network, which helped fight successfully against the Republican Senate's confirmation of Obama's appointments.
Obama started his tenure with 54 vacancies and Trump is starting his term with 102. The U.S. Senate has sat on these vacancies for most of the past 18 months in hopes of filling these lifetime vacancies with Republican appointees. Some 38 of these are deemed "emergencies." Most of Judicial Crisis funding has come from ... right-wing groups .... This is enough to doubt Gorsuch's independence. The ads are pointed towards Montanans so that we will encourage Tester to vote for the confirmation.
Republicans are Hijacking the Courts. Will Senate Democrats Let Them? (Huffington Post, 02/22/17)
Algernon Austin: Many have called the theft of the Judge Merrick Garland’s appointment unprecedented, but this statement is not quite correct. It is unprecedented only if one ignores the fact that several of President Obama’s judicial appointments to lower courts were also blocked. Because Republicans blocked the appointment of Garland and many other judicial appointments, they have now delivered all of those seats to Trump.
What will Democrats do about this? Will they allow Trump to stack the judiciary or will they insist that these are stolen seats and therefore they do not belong to Trump?
In my view, a reasonable Democratic response would be to work to block Trump judicial appointments in proportion to the degree that Obama’s appointments were blocked.
Mitch McConnell Marvels At The Judicial Crisis He Created: After years of blocking Barack Obama’s court picks, Republicans now have “an excellent chance of clearing the deck of all the vacancies,” says the GOP leader. (Huffington Post, 02/05/17)
Jennifer Bendery: If there is a hallmark issue that defines Mitch McConnell’s time as Senate majority leader under President Barack Obama, it was his obstruction of judicial nominees....But he did so at the cost of driving up judicial vacancies around the country, so much so that the federal bench is now emptier than it’s been in decades and the number of judicial emergencies ― when a court is so overburdened it can barely function ― spiked from 12 to 43 in the two years since Republicans retook control of the Senate.... There’s a federal appeals court in Wisconsin that’s been waiting 2,586 days for a vacancy to be filled ― looking at you, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). A district court in North Carolina has had a vacancy for 4,054 days ― hi, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). That’s more than 11 years.... The thing to watch now is whether Republicans use their control of the White House and the Senate to push through nominees who aren’t just conservative but have extreme right-wing ideologies.
Democrats are limited in what they can do to stop them from doing that. But they aren’t helpless. If they’re prepared to play hardball, like Republicans did with Obama’s judicial nominees, they could lean on a judiciary committee rule to unilaterally block any nominee from their state from moving forward.
Trump’s judicial picks will affect far more than the Supreme Court (McClatchy newspapers, 01/23/17)
Michael Doyle: “Based on . . . Trump’s cabinet nominations, I am very concerned that he will try to advance judicial nominees that are outside the mainstream and that they will not reflect the diversity of the people they serve,” said former White House Deputy Counsel Christopher Kang.... “I think . . . Trump will be surprised to learn how much power home-state senators wield in the judicial nomination process,” Kang said.
Democrats Must Do What They Can to Protect the Supreme Court and the Nation (People For blog, 01/19/17)
Paul Gordon: In a sharp departure from the norm, Trump last year essentially delegated authority for selecting potential justices to right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.... Yes, there is a vacancy on the Court, but there shouldn’t be. ... It exists only because Senate Republicans took the unprecedented step of refusing to consider President Obama’s nominee, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland. ... During Obama’s first term and into his second, the number of judicial vacancies skyrocketed, not because there weren’t nominees, but because Republicans blocked votes indiscriminately. ... Majority Leader McConnell ended the year without allowing the Senate to vote on the 23 circuit and district court nominees who had been languishing on the Senate floor for many months, sometimes for over a year, after having been thoroughly vetted and approved by the Judiciary Committee.
Confirm Inga Bernstein for the District of Massachusetts (The Hill, 01/13/17)
Carl Tobias: On July 30, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Inga Bernstein, a longtime private practitioner, for a judicial vacancy on the District of Massachusetts. Bernstein is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Bernstein on May 19, 2016 without dissent. Nonetheless, she languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow her confirmation debate and vote. Because Ms. Bernstein is an experienced, moderate nominee and the District of Massachusetts needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must swiftly hold her final debate and vote.... Warren and other Democratic senators requested unanimous consent to vote on Bernstein and nineteen remaining district nominees who need floor votes, but the GOP objected.
How Barack Obama Transformed The Nation’s Courts: He filled two SCOTUS seats and made the judiciary more diverse than ever. But the GOP stopped him from doing more. (Huffington Post, 01/12/17)
Jennifer Bendery: Obama will leave office with 329 of his judicial nominees confirmed to lifetime posts on federal courts. That includes two U.S. Supreme Court justices and four judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the two most powerful courts in the nation. Because of Obama, Democratic appointees now have a 7-4 advantage on the D.C. panel, and those judges will play a major role in deciding cases during the Trump administration related to environmental regulations, health care, national security, consumer protections and challenges to executive orders.
Obama also tilted the partisan makeup of circuit courts. Nine of the country’s 13 appeals courts now have majority Democratic appointees, compared with just one when he took office in 2009.
There is a caveat to his judicial success, however: When Republicans regained the Senate majority two years ago, they ground judicial confirmations to a halt. That has left 86 district court vacancies and 17 circuit court vacancies for President-elect Donald Trump to fill. That’s a huge number of court seats to fall victim to partisan politics. For some context: Obama inherited 59 district and circuit court vacancies when he became president. Trump is inheriting 103.