2019 was a banner year for confirming federal judges — an accomplishment that will reverberate long after many of the leading stories of the year, including impeachment, have been largely forgotten.
Let’s start with federal district court judges. These positions didn’t used to be considered politically charged. Confirmation of district court nominees once was routine.
That’s not longer true. District judges are actively participating in the anti-Trump resistance. They are also setting policy through nationwide injunctions.
I’m happy to report that this year the Senate confirmed 80 district court judges nominated by President Trump. This brings the total of Trump-nominated district judges to 133. According to Ed Whelan, the Senate confirmed 97 district court judges in President Obama’s first three years.
The breakthrough in 2019 occurred because in April, the Senate reduced the number of post-cloture debate hours on district court nominees from 30, a ridiculously large number, to two. Well done, Mitch McConnell.
Now let’s turn to the even more crucial position of federal appeals court judge. This year, the Senate confirmed 20 such judges. This brings the total of Trump-nominated appellate judges on the bench to 50, only five fewer than President Obama saw confirmed in eight year.
No president in our history has ever placed this many judges on courts of appeals in his first three years. One-fourth of all circuit court of appeals judges were nominated by Trump.
As a result, three circuit courts of appeals have flipped from majority Democrat appointees to majority Republican appointees. The three circuits are the Second, the Third, and the Eleventh. Moreover, the Ninth Circuit, until recently the playground of hard leftists, might flip soon, according to this report.
If Trump is reelected next year, he will be able completely to transform the federal judiciary. If he isn’t, he won’t be. But even in that scenario, the good work described above will have important consequences for years to come.