by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The death this week of 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt gives President Trump the opportunity to boost the number of Republican-appointed judges on the famously liberal-leaning court, with seven seats now open.
But legal experts say filling all of those vacancies could be a stretch because of partisan wrangling in the Senate.
Of the 22 active judges on the bench — the court is authorized to have 29 judgeships — 16 were nominated by Democratic presidents, and six were nominated by Republicans.
But with Reinhardt’s death, Trump will have the opportunity to fill seven vacancies to the San Francisco-based appeals court.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said. “There are 29 active judgeships on that court. [Trump] can fill 1/4 of them. That to me could — depending on who they are, how quickly they go, whether they are rejected — change the complexion of the court, and it could change substantially.”