Sep 14, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden outpacing Trump with blistering pace of judicial confirmations

Federal judges confirmed by recent presidents
Data: U.S. Courts; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

President Biden has appointed more new federal judges than former President Trump had at the same point in his term, and there are more still to come.

Why it matters: One of Trump's defining legacies was reshaping the federal judiciary. Since its earliest days, the Biden administration has been determined to maximize its own stamp on the courts.

  • It’s working — the Senate has confirmed more than 80 new judges since Biden took office. But conservatives still have a big advantage at the highest levels of the legal system.

By the numbers: Biden has appointed 58 new district court judges; Trump had appointed 26 at this point in his presidency, and he ended up with a total of 174.

  • District judges' rulings can be appealed to federal circuit courts. Biden has appointed 20 judges to the set of appeals courts that can hear hot-button cases; Trump had appointed 24 at the same point in his term, and he ended up with 54.
  • And at the Supreme Court, thanks to Trump’s three appointments, a conservative majority will likely continue to reign for decades.

The bottom line: Democrats aren't sleeping on the importance of the courts. The White House nominates new judges quickly when vacancies arise, and even with just one vote to spare, the Democratic Senate has confirmed those nominees at a brisk pace.

  • But if they lose the Senate in November, don’t expect Biden to match Trump’s 54 appellate judges. And any chance to pick up one more seat on the Supreme Court, much less two, will most likely belong to a future president.
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