Trump’s mark on federal courts could last decades
President Trump’s impact on the federal judiciary will be felt for decades, regardless of whether he wins reelection in November.
Trump last week saw the Senate confirm his 200th judicial appointment, marking a significant milestone for the administration, the conservative legal movement and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has worked furiously to remake the courts. Not since Jimmy Carter has a president appointed as many federal judges at this point in his first term.
Trump has appointed 53 judges to the influential Courts of Appeals, the last stop for cases before the Supreme Court, filling 30 percent of its seats with hand-picked conservatives.
Those judges have already made an impact with rulings and dissents on the Affordable Care Act, abortion and executive power, and will be shaping the law long after Trump leaves office. Many of Trump’s appointees have been young and federal judges serve lifetime appointments.
The average age of Trump’s judges at the time they were appointed is 48 years old, compared with 57 for Barack Obama’s appointees, 51 for George W. Bush’s and 50 for Bill Clinton’s, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution from late February.
Trump’s appointees are also whiter and overwhelmingly male when compared to those tapped for the federal judiciary under his predecessor.
Stephen Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, said Trump has broken with a trend set by prior administrations of seeking to appoint a diverse group of judges to the federal bench.
Many of the appointees have ties to a conservative legal movement opposed to abortion, environmental and labor protections and restrictions on presidential power. Daniel Goldberg, the legal director of the progressive Alliance for Justice, described the appointees as “committed to advancing a partisan ideological agenda on the bench that Republicans cannot achieve in Congress.”
Trump’s allies view his mark on the courts as a signature accomplishment and one that can help the president galvanize his base of supporters ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump often touts his judicial appointments in campaign speeches and official addresses, doing so at a recent rally in Tulsa, Okla., as he warned that Democrats would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who “utterly obliterate your Constitution.”