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Trump's Judicial Nominees

May 15, 2017

Last year we wrote a column (September 12, 2016, The Federal Judiciary) about what President Obama did to the Judicial branch of government in making appointments to the lower courts.  In that column we wrote: “When Obama took office just one of the thirteen U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was controlled by liberal judges.  Some fifty-five successful presidential nominations later, liberals control nine of the thirteen.  That means that currently seventy percent of the justices on circuit courts are liberal.  This is a major transformation and it will have a major impact upon the United States as we know it.” 

Some of those appointments are responsible for court decisions that are keeping President Trump from living up to his campaign promises, especially those related to immigration.

This past week, President Trump started to turn that trend around by announcing ten lower court appointments.  In announcing the nominees White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said:

“These ten individuals the president has chosen were chosen for their deep knowledge of the law and their commitment to upholding constitutional principles. Two of the nominees today came from the list of potential Supreme Court nominees that the president released during the campaign. The president followed the principles that were used to guide that list to select the additional eight individuals.”

Not only was last November’s election about getting a supreme court justice who was committed to following the U.S. Constitution; it was also about getting lower court justices of the same stripe and most of them are people who are in their 40’s which means that once on the bench they will make their mark for many years to come.  One observer suggested that it looks as though the White House is thinking about the future by looking for younger nominees.

The nominees include Amy Barrett (45) a Notre Dame law professor and former law clerk for Justice Scalia;  David Stras (44) a Minnesota Supreme Court Judge; Joan Larsen (48) a Michigan Supreme Court Justice;  John Bush (53) a Louisville attorney; and Kevin Newsom (44) the former Solicitor General from Alabama and clerk for Justice Souter.  All these are appeals court nominees  appear to be people committed to adhering to U.S. Constitutional principles.  These appointments are important because most appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court have previously served as U.S. Circuit court justices.

There are currently about 120 vacancies in the lower federal courts.  This will afford the Trump Administration to level the playing field and reverse the trend from Obama’s reign. 

The ability of the Democratic minority in the Senate to block these nominations is now limited because former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid instituted the “nuclear option” when the Democrats were in control of the Senate.  As a result it will only take 51 votes to approve these judicial nominations, not sixty votes.

Our view:  The filling of these vacancies with men and women, who are dedicated to follow the U.S. Constitution, as envisioned by our county’s founders, is long overdue. 

Bill, Mark, and John


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