Donald Trump made the appointment of federal judges a key part of his appeal to Republican voters when he ran in 2016. He has not ignored this issue since taking office, and neither has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In recent weeks, much of the Senate’s time has been devoted to confirming these judges – something that pleases the president’s conservative base but worries liberals.
So far this year, the Senate has confirmed the following circuit court nominees:
David Ryan Stras, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit: 56-42
Elizabeth L. Branch, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit: 73-23
Stuart Kyle Duncan, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit: 50-47
Kurt D. Engelhardt, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit: 62-34
Michael B. Brennan, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit: 49-46
Michael Y. Scudder, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit: 90-0
Amy J. St. Eve, of Illinois, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit: 91-0
Joel M. Carson III, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit: 77-21
John B. Nalbandian, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit: 53-45
These judges, who can serve for life, will sit on circuit courts that are one level below the Supreme Court in terms of jurisdiction. The U.S. is divided into twelve judicial circuits, with a panel of judges serving on each court.
The appointees to these circuit courts has become increasingly contentious over the past two decades. Members of both parties began to use the filibuster to block appointments to these courts, forcing the president’s party to come up with 60 votes to confirm a judge. In 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid ended the filibuster for circuit court nominees. That allowed some of President Obama’s circuit court picks to advance over the objection of Republicans, but also paved the way for relatively easy confirmation of President Trump’s nominees.
While two of President Trump’s nominees received unanimous votes (those of Amy St. Eve and Michael Scudder), the Senate was closely divided on many of the others. This has been the pattern for many of the president’s nominees, whether for judicial posts or for executive branch positions.
Are you happy that the Senate has confirmed so many of President Trump’s judicial nominees? Or do you think that President Trump’s judge picks will reshape the federal judiciary in a way that you disagree with?