by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
At the Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler has posted an upbeat report on President Trump’s judicial appointments:
[L]ast week, the Senate confirmed Justice Don Willett and James Ho to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Leonard Grasz to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. These three were the tenth, eleventh, and twelth circuit nominees confirmed this year, setting a record for the number of appellate nominees confirmed during a President’s first year (in addition to the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court).
It is not simply the number of appellate judges confirmed, but the caliber. Trump’s appellate nominees have been impressive, and compare favorably in terms of intellect and qualifications with those of any modern President. Among other things, they include a surprising number of legal academics, including newly confirmed judges Amy Coney Barrett (7th Circuit), Stephanos Bibas (3rd Circuit), Allison Eid (10th Circuit), and Joan Larsen (Sixth Circuit), and pending nominees David Stras (8th Circuit). Like the Reagan Administration, the Trump White House appears interested in naming judges who can help provide intellectual leadership on their respective courts — and that’s precisely what they have been doing.
While the Trump Administration’s appellate nominees have been superlative, its trial court nominees have been more of a mixed bag — and this should not be much of a surprise. The White House Counsel’s office has focused its efforts on the appellate courts, ensuring that all appellate nominees are of the highest quality. Trial court nominees, on the other hand, are more the product of political deal-making and Senatorial prerogative. …
While the failure of a few trial court nominees may be embarrassing for the White House, these failures are far, far less significant than the Administration’s success at tapping highly qualified and intellectually serious jurists for the appellate bench. With over 150 federal court vacancies yet to fill, recent stumbles are unlikely to prevent the Trump Administration from having a significant — and likely salutory — effect on the federal bench.