In Less Than Three Years, The Senate Has Confirmed The Most Circuit Judges In A President’s First Term Since 1980

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “This president and this Senate have prioritized confirming impressive men and women to these lifetime appointments. Talented individuals who believe in the quaint notion that the job of a judge is to apply our nation’s laws and Constitution as they are actually written, not as they might wish they were written. At the close of business today, it so happens, one in every four judges on the federal courts of appeals will have been nominated by President Trump and confirmed by us here in the Senate.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 11/07/2019)

 

·         SEN. McCONNELL: “Every American should be proud of this. Citizens deserve a judiciary of fair-minded men and women who don’t confuse their jobs with the job of a legislator. Every member of this body should be proud to confirm federal judges who understand that our job is to make the laws, and their job is to apply them fairly. If the concept of faithful judges fulfilling their proper role strikes anyone as a partisan development, or a threat to their political agenda, I would suggest it is their agenda that needs modifying and not the judicial branch that our founders intended.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 11/07/2019)

 

‘With Another Flurry Of Senate Judicial Confirmations This Week, The Trump Administration Will Have Placed … One-Quarter Of All Appellate Court Judges’

 

Authorized Circuit Court Judgeships: 179

Circuit judges confirmed by 115th – 116th Congresses: 45

Percentage of all authorized circuit judgeships nominated by President Trump and confirmed: 25%

(“Judicial Vacancies,” United States Courts Website, Accessed 11/07/2019; Congress.gov, Accessed 11/07/2019)

 

“With another flurry of Senate judicial confirmations this week, the Trump administration will have placed 45 conservative judges on the nation’s appeals courts — the federal courts where most final rulings are issued. The tally means one-quarter of all appellate court judges will have been installed by Mr. Trump.” (“Trump And Senate Republicans Celebrate Making The Courts More Conservative,” The New York Times, 11/06/2019)

 

·         “And that is in addition to the two Supreme Court justices confirmed since he took office and 112 district court judges put on the bench, with more on the way. Many will be handing down decisions decades after Mr. Trump is gone from office.” (“Trump And Senate Republicans Celebrate Making The Courts More Conservative,” The New York Times, 11/06/2019)

 

“McConnell’s pace of filling federal court seats has been eye-popping, especially on the powerful appellate circuits.” (“McConnell's Laser Focus On Transforming The Judiciary,” Politico, 10/17/2018)

 

In Less Than Three Years, The Senate Has Confirmed The Most Circuit Judges In A President’s First Term Since 1980

 

President

Years

Circuit Court Judges Confirmed

Donald Trump

2017-2019

45

Barack Obama

2009-2013

30

George W. Bush

2001-2005

35

Bill Clinton

1993-1997

30

George H.W. Bush

1989-1993

42

Ronald Reagan

1981-1985

33

("Biographical Directory of Article III Federal Judges, 1789-present," History of the Federal Judiciary, Federal Judicial Center Website, Accessed 11/07/2019)

 

“The results have been striking. Mr. Trump has seated about a dozen more appellate court nominees than his most recent predecessor and the most since 1980, when President Jimmy Carter expanded the courts.” (“Trump And Senate Republicans Celebrate Making The Courts More Conservative,” The New York Times, 11/06/2019)

 

‘Trump Chips Away At Liberal U.S. Appeals Court Majorities’

 

“Aided by fellow Republicans in the Senate, President Donald Trump is rapidly filling vacancies on U.S. appeals courts, moving some that had liberal majorities closer to conservative control in an ideological shift … These 13 courts wield considerable power, usually providing the last word on rulings appealed from lower courts on disputes involving federal law.” (‘Trump Chips Away At Liberal U.S. Appeals Court Majorities,” Reuters, 9/20/2018)

 

“[O]ne federal appellate circuit has been flipped from a majority of judges nominated by Democratic presidents to a majority selected by Republicans. A second is about to become majority Republican nominees. The partisan divide has also been significantly narrowed on other circuits, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on the West Coast …” (“Trump And Senate Republicans Celebrate Making The Courts More Conservative,” The New York Times, 11/06/2019)

 

3rd CIRCUIT: Working with President Trump, Senate Republicans have flipped the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals from a majority appointed by Democratic presidents to a majority appointed by Republican presidents. ("Biographical Directory of Article III Federal Judges, 1789-present," History of the Federal Judiciary, Federal Judicial Center Website, Accessed 11/07/2019)

 

·         “Trump’s appointees have shifted the political balance on one appeals court, the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate has confirmed three Trump nominees to that court, giving it eight Republican-appointed judges and six Democratic appointees.” (“McConnell, Eyeing Legacy, Turns Senate Into Machine for Conservative Judges,” Bloomberg News, 8/12/2019)

 

2nd CIRCUIT: Working with President Trump, Senate Republicans have taken the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals from a majority appointed by Democratic presidents to an even split between appointees of Democratic and Republican presidents. (Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Ed Whelan, @EdWhelanEPPC, Twitter, 11/06/2019)

 

·         With the confirmation of William Nardini to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, there are now 6 appointees each from Republican and Democratic presidents on that court. ("Biographical Directory of Article III Federal Judges, 1789-present," History of the Federal Judiciary, Federal Judicial Center Website, Accessed 11/07/2019)

 

11th CIRCUIT: Working with President Trump, Senate Republicans have taken the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals from a majority appointed by Democratic presidents to an even split between appointees of Democratic and Republican presidents. (The Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim, @seungminkim, Twitter, 11/06/2019)

 

·         “[T]he Eleventh Circuit is currently divided 6-6 between appointees of Republican presidents and appointees of Democratic presidents. So when President Trump fills [Judge Stanley] Marcus’s seat, the Eleventh Circuit will flip to a 7-5 majority of Republican appointees. At the outset of the Trump administration, it had an 8-3 Democratic majority (with one vacancy). So that’s an impressive swing.” (Ed Whelan, “New Vacancy Sets Up Eleventh Circuit Flip,” National Review’s Bench Memos Blog, 9/06/2019)

 

9th CIRCUIT: President Trump has nominated and Senate Republicans have confirmed more appointees to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals than to any other circuit court. ("Biographical Directory of Article III Federal Judges, 1789-present," History of the Federal Judiciary, Federal Judicial Center Website, Accessed 11/07/2019)

 

·         “And with McConnell’s help, Trump is making his mark on the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, the longtime liberal bastion that has drawn the president’s repeated ire. The 9th Circuit now has 16 Democratic appointees and 12 Republican appointees, compared with 18 and 7 when Trump took office. Another term for Trump could let him transform that court.” (“McConnell, Eyeing Legacy, Turns Senate Into Machine for Conservative Judges,” Bloomberg News, 8/12/2019)

 

‘President Trump And Senate Republicans Are Leaving An Ever-Expanding Imprint On The Judiciary’

 

“With another judge confirmed Tuesday by the Senate, President Trump and Senate Republicans are leaving an ever-expanding imprint on the judiciary, nudging powerful appeals courts rightward through a determined effort to nominate and confirm a steady procession of young conservative jurists.” (“Trump Is Putting Indelible Conservative Stamp On Judiciary,” The New York Times, 7/31/2018)

 

·         “Many of the president’s circuit nominees have impressive credentials, including Supreme Court clerkships, degrees from prestigious law schools and portfolios of legal scholarship.” (“Two Years In, Trump’s Appeals Court Confirmations At A Historic High Point,” The Washington Post, 2/04/2019)

 

·         “[T]he judicial nominees the White House is putting forward are on average younger … than past nominees even compared with those put forward by previous Republican presidents.” (“Trump And Senate Republicans Celebrate Making The Courts More Conservative,” The New York Times, 11/06/2019)

 

‘McConnell And Trump Are Having Their Biggest Impact On The 13 U.S. Appeals Courts, Which Have Tremendous Influence’

 

“McConnell and Trump are having their biggest impact on the 13 U.S. appeals courts, which have tremendous influence. While the Supreme Court decides fewer than 70 cases a year, appellate courts ruled on or dismissed 48,515 cases for the year ending March 31, 2019, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington.” (“McConnell, Eyeing Legacy, Turns Senate Into Machine for Conservative Judges,” Bloomberg News, 8/12/2019)

 

·         “‘The Senate and the administration has put their eggs in the basket of getting circuit judges confirmed, based on the fact that that’s where the policy gets made,’ said Russell Wheeler, a Brookings Institution scholar who tracks judicial confirmations.” (“McConnell, Eyeing Legacy, Turns Senate Into Machine for Conservative Judges,” Bloomberg News, 8/12/2019)

 

·         “‘The Supreme Court gets the bulk of the attention, but the circuit courts decide the bulk of the cases,’ said Arthur D. Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies the federal judiciary. ‘Because the Supreme Court these days is taking so few cases, the law of the circuit is, on many, many issues, the final law for the people who live in that circuit.’” (“With Little Fanfare, Trump And McConnell Reshape The Nation’s Circuit Courts,” The Washington Post, 8/14/2018)

 

“Aided by fellow Republicans in the Senate, President Donald Trump is rapidly filling vacancies on U.S. appeals courts, moving some that had liberal majorities closer to conservative control in an ideological shift … These 13 courts wield considerable power, usually providing the last word on rulings appealed from lower courts on disputes involving federal law.” (‘Trump Chips Away At Liberal U.S. Appeals Court Majorities,” Reuters, 9/20/2018)

 

‘The Trump Administration’s Indispensable Partner In Seating Two Supreme Court Justices And [Numerous] Lower-Court Judges,’ ‘McConnell Is Giving The Nation’s Federal Courts A Facelift’

 

“[Q]uietly and methodically, McConnell is giving the nation’s federal courts a facelift … [a] silent but incredibly consequential judicial overhaul …” (“McConnell’s GOP Haters Are Overlooking His Greatest Achievement,” The Daily Beast, 5/11/2018)

 

“The judicial renaissance, led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has energized a party wowed by the number of judges placed on the federal bench … Mr. McConnell has come to define his legacy by his ability to transform the judiciary, calling the confirmations ‘the most significant, long-term contribution we are making to the country’ in an interview with a Kentucky radio station last week.” (“Trump’s Judicial Nominees Take Heat but Largely Keep Marching Through Senate,” The New York Times, 12/11/2018)

 

·         “[McConnell] was the Trump administration’s indispensable partner in seating two Supreme Court justices and [numerous] lower-court judges: a generational remaking of the courts that has made McConnell, ‘in my view, the most consequential majority leader, certainly, in modern history,’ says Leonard Leo, the conservative legal activist who serves as executive vice president of the Federalist Society and as an adviser to the Trump administration on the court appointments.” (The New York Times Magazine, 1/22/2019)