by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Joe Biden’s administration announced its 10th round of judicial nominees last week in an aim to fill vacancies left by a pair of retiring judges from the 2nd and 6th Courts of Appeals, continuing a fast-paced trend of nominations to offset the judicial legacy left by his predecessor.
Across the federal court system, a total of 78 vacancies are available for the president to fill as of Nov. 24. The president, along with the support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, has already nominated 64 individuals to federal judgeships, with nine confirmations of circuit judges and 19 district judges.
Political pundits see this as Biden’s chance to nudge the courts to the left, while the White House has described the president’s latest nominations as a continuation of the “promise to ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity.”
The president’s record-setting pace of confirmations effectively serves as a direct rebuff to former President Donald Trump and former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to move the federal judiciary to the right. Trump notably confirmed more than 230 federal judges, including three Supreme Court justices that built the present 6-3 conservative majority on the bench.
An apparent urgency to fill judicial vacancies at a rapid pace is due largely to the Democrats’ slim hold on the even 50-50 Senate chamber with the vice presidential tiebreaker, as midterm elections are now less than a year out. Republican lawmakers have touted the 2022 midterm elections as a chance to gain back the House and potentially the Senate, giving Biden only a short window to confirm judges uncontested should the opposing party win back the majority in either chamber.
Dan Goldberg, legal director at the Alliance for Justice, told Bloomberg Law in October he thinks “Democrats are very, very clear in what will happen if McConnell becomes majority leader again in 2023.”