by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Near-total control of the federal appeals courts is within reach for legal conservatives if President Donald Trump is reelected, administration allies believe.
While the pace of Trump’s judicial appointments has been steady, about two-thirds of his circuit court nominees have replaced Republican-appointed judges, University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told the Washington Free Beacon. A second Trump term would offer Republicans a chance to replace many judges nominated by Democrats as well, elevating Trump’s judicial record from productive to transformational. The prospect of further appointments to the Supreme Court is also realistic, a chilling notion for Democrats that prompted the party to endorse “structural reform” of the judiciary during the DNC.
Research provided to the Free Beacon by the Article III Project (A3P) shows that 59 circuit court judges were eligible for “senior status,” a form of quasi-retirement, at the start of 2020—about 60 percent of them Democratic appointees. It’s a figure that makes Trump’s supporters bullish about the future.
“In President Trump’s second term, Republicans could take control of all 13 of the critically important U.S. Courts of Appeals, the last stop for 99 percent of all federal appeals,” A3P president Mike Davis told the Free Beacon. The A3P is an advocacy group that supports the president’s judicial nominees.
When Trump took office, Democratic appointees had a majority on nine circuit courts to the GOP’s four. The president has “flipped” three of those panels, and Davis believes Trump will turn still more in a second term. For example, 10 Democratic appointees on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be eligible for senior status by January 2023. Democratic appointees currently have a three-seat advantage on that panel, putting control of the court within reach for Republicans.