Trump's Judicial Picks May Change California Legal Landscape, not just SCOTUS

by Placerville Newswire / Feb 01, 2017 / comments

[Placerville News Wire]

Trump could quickly appoint more than twice as many federal judges as Obama did in his first term.

The Sac Bee's editorial Board said that the political world focused Tuesday night on President Donald Trump’s live-from-the-White House announcement of his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, but Trump has the chance to remake the federal judiciary far beyond the high court.

This is partly because of the Republicans that stopped Barack Obama’s Lame-Duck nominee Judge Merrick Garland in 2016. Mitch McConnell’s refusal to confirm many of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees has set the table for Donald Trump to dramatically reshape the judiciary over the next four years, as the Republican Senate set a modern record for the fewest confirmations of lifetime judicial appointees during Obama's last two years.  

Overall in the last two years of the Obama presidency, when Republicans held a Senate majority, they only confirmed 20 federal judges.  Senate Democrats became so frustrated in the last few years they changed the rules. While it still takes 60 votes to end debate and vote on Supreme Court nominees, it only requires a simple majority of 51 votes to proceed on other judicial nominations.

The rules change helped Obama eventually appoint some 330 federal judges. But it also sets the stage for Trump and Republicans, who now have 52 seats in the Senate, to flip the judiciary back in a more conservative direction.

"Trump will immediately get to fill 116 vacancies among 890 total federal judicial positions," according to the Bee. The lifetime appointments include six trial-level U.S. District Court judgeships in California and four seats on the influential 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, that oversees cases from California and eight other Western states.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Tuesday she will oppose Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, because she has “no confidence” that he will be independent enough from the White House.

Most, if not all of Obama's nominations, will be wiped away by Trump and Senate Republicans.

Based on his campaign promises and other statements, Trump will try to stack the federal bench with judges who favor gun rights, oppose abortion rights, believe in broader presidential authority and boast the seal of approval from conservative advocacy groups.

Interestingly, despite his anti-Bush rhetoric, Trump also owes a debt to the Bush administration: Many of the Trump SCOTUS possibilities were appointed by Bush or held positions in his administration. While the Bush administration’s foreign and domestic policies remain a source of debate for Republicans today, conservatives agree that most of Bush’s judicial appointments were stellar.

The other promising sign is that Trump’s advisers have looked beyond the lower federal courts to include potential nominees from state supreme courts. State supreme-court justices will have special sensitivity to the balance between federal power and state sovereignty. Many have run for office and already know what it is like to be attacked by the Left. They may prove more immune to the pressure from the New York-Washington liberal media/academic elite that has managed to sway Justice Anthony Kennedy and other Republican appointees.

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Judicial Vacancies

Last updated on01/31/2017

Court

Authorized Judgeships

Vacancies

Nominees Pending

Nominees Pending for Future Vacancies

US Court of Appeals 179 17 0 0
US District Courts (includes territorial courts*) 677 90 0 0
US Court of International Trade 9 2 0 0
US Court of Federal Claims 16 6 0 0
US Supreme Court 9 1 0 0
Total 890 116 0 0