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Policy Summary
On President Donald J. Trump’s campaign re – election website for 2020 he lists numerous accomplishments during his first term thus far as well as promises that he claims to have fulfilled from his 2016 presidential campaign. The website address is even www.promiseskept.com. Under the tab for “Law and Justice” President Trump is touting his efforts in “Reshaping The American Courts.” He lists his well – known efforts in successfully nominating two conservative Supreme Court justices in Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. He also lists what he has done with filling the rolls of federal appeals court judges and federal district court judges.

In just over three years President Trump has appointed more than fifty (50) federal appeals court judges. And at the federal district court level President Trump has appointed more than one hundred thirty – three (133) judges. With the fifty (50) federal appeals court judges out of one hundred seventy – nine (179) total, President Trump is responsible for nearly twenty – eight percent (28%) of the judges at the federal appeals level. And with one hundred thirty – three (133) federal judges appointed at the trial level out of six hundred seventy – seven (677) total the President is responsible for nineteen percent (19%) of the federal trial judges currently in service. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Policy Analysis
Recent news articles have recently begun to sound the warning about what President Trump has done to the American judiciary and the consequences in the decades to come. But this effort did not begin with the Trump Presidency. In fact, there has been a long – standing battle in Congress for the last decade that has resulted in Republicans being able to exert more control over the American court system. The strategy of Republicans and evangelical groups, who overwhelmingly support Republican candidates, has been to stall and defer and possibly prevent appointments under a Democratic President and then change the rules to more favorable rules once a Republican President was elected.

In Congress, the Senate must approve all judicial nominations but the procedure to get there has undergone a radical change since 2011. With the Democrats in control of the Senate at the time, they also controlled the committees and could have installed more federal judges. However, former Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reinstituted an old rule called “blue – slip” which allowed a home state senator to block a nominee if the nominee was going to serve on the bench in the senator’s home state. This allowed Republican senators to block Democratic federal judge nominations indefinitely and leave the bench open until the day a Republican became President. Numerous Obama federal judge nominations were simply blocked and kept vacant by a Republican senator if the judge was going to serve in his or her state. With the Republicans back in control of the Senate in 2016, they simply ignored the “blue – slip” tradition and proceeded to confirm as many Republican judges as possible after President Trump was elected.

Additionally, the way filibusters were handled was changed. Republicans would often “filibuster” federal judge nominees and simply keep talking so the debate would not end and a vote could be delayed. The only way a filibuster would end was if sixty (60) senators voted to end the debate. But the rule was changed so that only fifty (50) senators was required to end filibusters. Because of the inability to block a vote, Republicans have taken advantage of their current numbers in the Senate and simply voted to end filibusters and then rushed a vote to confirm federal judges.

What this means is that Republicans have very nearly succeeded in confirming an inordinate number of federal judges, which could have consequences for many social policies in the future. One worry is that many of these judges are mere idealogues who are simply there to rubber stamp Republican policies. Two Trump nominees – Sarah Pitlyk in St. Louis and Lawrence Van Dyke to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals were both rated unqualified by the American Bar Association (ABA). And the main worry is how they will handle controversial topics such as abortion rights, voting rights, campaign finance, police accountability, religion and discrimination and LGBQT issues. The future of the American courts and the judiciary should be watched closely to see that it does not become overtly partisan. And, of course, one goal for the 2020 election cycle is to hope the Democrats regain control of the U.S. Senate in order to take back control of the judicial confirmation process. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources:

  • Alliance For Justice – non – profit group’s Building the Bench program to take back American courts and ensure they remain independent.
  • Brennan Center for Justice – report on federal judge nominations and attending issues.

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.

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