When Trump became president, he inherited
107 federal judicial vacancies, essentially twice the number Obama inherited. That’s in large part because in 2015 the Republican majority Senate began refusing
to confirm any of Obama’s appointments. Remember Merrick Garland? Well, he’s only
one of 52 judicial nominees during Obama’s presidency who never received a vote. All told, there are 874 federal judges in the United States, including the District Court, the
Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court. Trump’s nominations only need simple majority in the Senate to be confirmed for these lifetime appointments. And with the vacancies alone, Trump can appoint about 14% of all federal judges. Take into account the number of expected retirements and Trump’s picks could make up to one-half of the appellate court. Trump: Well, I’m going to appoint conservative
judges, I’m gonna appoint people that have great reputations, that are great with the legal
profession. Like? Trump hasn’t provided much intel on his potential appointments but we do know a little. He promised on the campaign to appoint only pro-life conservatives to the Supreme Court, which was instrumental in securing the evangelical vote, and he’s pledged that his judges will “all be picked by the Federalist Society,” an
influential group of conservative lawyers Trump is looking to appoint judges who are
young and have less experience, ensuring the president’s influence on the judicial branch
for decades. And that influence will have the greatest
effect at the circuit court level. While the Supreme Court only hears about 75
cases a year, the Court of Appeals decides tens of thousands.
Which means that often, the lower courts have the final say on the rule of law, creating
a far reaching sphere of influence over the daily lives of Americans. For example, both of Trump’s travel bans were deemed unconstitutional, the first by
an appellate court judge and the second by district judges. And just last month, the district court for the 5th circuit ruled that Texas’s gerrymandering
of their congressional districts was unconstitutional because it targeted minority voters. The judges Trump nominates are likely going to preside over contentious debates like gun control, voting rights, civil liberties and abortion, to name a few. So Trump’s appointments will likely establish a new conservative precedent across the United States.