by WorldTribune Staff, December 26, 2016
The Trump administration will have a huge opportunity to reshape the judiciary with an estimated 103 federal circuit and district court vacancies being handed over during the transition, a report said.
“State gun control laws, abortion restrictions, voter laws, anti-discrimination measures and immigrant issues are all matters that are increasingly heard by federal judges and will be influenced by the new composition of the courts,” The Washington Post reported on Dec. 25.
“Trump has vowed to choose ideologues in the mold of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon — a prospect that has activists on the right giddy.”
President-elect Donald Trump will inherit double the vacancies that President Barack Obama did when he first took office.
“I’m optimistic he’ll come at this right out of the gate,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group that has opposed many of Obama’s court choices.
“[Trump] is unique in having campaigned really hard on this issue — the significance of the courts, and of the Supreme Court in particular.”
Trump spoke frequently during the campaign about his intentions to choose a more conservative Supreme Court nominee.
“The replacement of our beloved Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views, principles and judicial philosophies,” Trump said in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. “Very important. This will be one of the most important issues decided by this election.”
The Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Senate “will be under pressure to quickly install judges in courts around the country where cases are severely backlogged because of long-vacant seats,” the Post report said.
There are 38 so-called “judicial emergencies,” including in Texas, where seven seats have remained empty for more than one year, according to the nonpartisan Judicial Conference. The Obama administration and the Lone Star State’s two conservative Republican senators could not come to an agreement on nominees for the many openings.
Trump has a chance to shift the partisan split in the federal courts, said Russell Wheeler, an expert on judicial nominations at the Brookings Institution.
By mid-2020, GOP appointees would hold about half of the 673 district judgeships, as opposed to the current 34 percent, Wheeler predicted.
And among the 179 circuit court judgeships, Democratic appointees now hold a slim majority, 51 percent, but that could fall to about 43 percent, he said.