Dec 22, 2019

Trump and McConnell continue to transform the federal judiciary

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

After three years in office, President Trump and the Republican-held Senate have installed a total of 187 judges to the federal bench, with Trump nominees now making up one in four U.S. circuit court judges, according to an analysis by the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Trump's transformation of the federal judiciary will ensure that it maintains a conservative tilt for decades, likely affecting future progressive legislation and priorities no matter the outcome of next November’s election.

By the numbers: Trump has so far appointed two Supreme Court justices and 50 judges on the 13 U.S. circuit courts. By comparison, Obama appointed two Supreme Court justices and 55 circuit judges during the entirety of his two terms.

  • Trump has also flipped three circuit courts to majority GOP-appointed judges, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.

Between the lines: The president and Senate Republicans selected younger conservatives for lifetime appointments to ensure that their impact is felt years after the Trump administration, according to the Washington Post.

Of note: While the House voted to impeach the president last week, the Senate confirmed an additional 13 district court judges.

What's next: Trump and Senate Republicans have only one circuit court vacancy left to fill this year. More could open up next year, and there will certainly be vacancies in Trump's second term if he wins in November.

  • There's also a strong chance of openings on the Supreme Court in the next presidential term. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, is 86 years old, while Justice Stephen Breyer, another Clinton pick, is 81.

Go deeper: Senate confirms controversial Trump nominee Steven Menashi to appeals court

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Chief Justice Roberts says Americans may "take democracy for granted"

Chief Justice John Roberts in 2017. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts warned that Americans may "take democracy for granted" in his annual year-end message published Tuesday.

"[W]e have come to take democracy for granted, and civic education has fallen by the wayside. In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital."
Go deeperArrowJan 1, 2020

Court rules Trump can use military funds for border wall

President Trump inspects border wall prototypes in San Diego in 2018. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

A Louisiana federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled in favor of President Trump's plan to divert $3.6 billion from military projects to build the border wall.

Why it matters: The New Orleans U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' overturning of a Texas judge's order last month that blocked the plan is a victory for Trump, who's faced legal challenges from several groups and states.

Go deeperArrowJan 9, 2020

Appeals court tosses high-profile youth climate lawsuit

Protesters attend a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court held by the group Our Children’s Trust October 29, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Friday threw out a lawsuit brought by 21 young people intended to force the U.S. government to act more aggressively to confront climate change.

Why it matters: The case, first brought in 2015, has been among the higher-profile pieces of climate litigation and underscores the challenges of using the court system to tackle global warming.

Go deeperArrowJan 17, 2020