Washington, DC – There is one thing everyone on the political spectrum in America agrees with: President Donald Trump left a deep mark in federal courts, so deep that it will last far longer than his only four-year term in the White House.
When he was a candidate, Trump used the promise of appointing conservative justices to win the support of skeptical Republicans.
Then, as president, Trump and his White House team relied on conservative legal organizations and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to relentlessly, almost robotically, fill nearly every vacancy in the federal judiciary — plus from 230 judges on the federal bench, including three new members of the Supreme Court — not deterred by Democrats.RELATED
In fact, despite Democratic criticism, the Senate was still confirming justices more than a month after Trump lost his re-election to Joe Biden.
“Trump has basically done more than any other president in a single term since Jimmy Carter to make his mark on the judicial system,” said Jonathan Adler, professor of law at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Congress created about 150 new magistrates during Carter’s presidency, he said.
The impact will be long lasting. Among the judges appointed by Trump, who hold life positions, several are in their 30s. The three nominees for the Supreme Court could continue in the highest court in the middle of the 21st century.
Aside from the Supreme Court, 30% of the judges in the federal appeals courts, where almost all cases conclude, were appointed by Trump.
The judges who have Trump to thank for their positions rejected the president’s efforts against his defeat in the election, but the real measure of what Trump achieved will be revealed in countless court decisions in the coming years on issues such as abortion, weapons of fire, religious rights and other issues of the strong divisions that the country lives.
When the Supreme Court prevented New York from implementing certain limits on church and synagogue attendance in areas hard hit by the coronavirus, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the court’s most recent member, was the decisive fifth vote. Previously, the court had allowed restrictions on religious services, with four judges dissenting, including Trump’s other two nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Five Trump nominees were in the majority of the 6-4 decision in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in September that made it more difficult for convicts in Florida to regain the right to vote.
Last month, Justices Britt Grant and Barbara Lagoa, both appointed by Trump, formed the majority of a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court that struck down local bans on “therapy” to seek to change the sexual orientation of LGBT minors. Other appeals courts in the country have upheld bans on these therapies.
In an early examination of Trump’s nominees to the federal courts, political science professors Kenneth Manning, Robert Carp and Lisa Holmes compared his decisions to more than 117,000 opinions published since 1932.
The decisions of the Trump-nominated judges were “in general, significantly more conservative” than those of past presidents, the academics concluded.
The constant in the last four years – going through impeachment, the coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s electoral defeat – has been his nomination of judges and confirmation by the Senate.
Trump used the matter of federal judges to win the trust of voters who might have doubts about the conservative credentials of a millionaire with no political experience who once supported abortion rights.
Trump presented a list of potential nominees, provided by the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, from which he would choose to fill any vacancies on the Supreme Court.
And there was already a vacancy almost immediately after he took office, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.
McConnell blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, denying even a hearing to the respected federal appeals judge whom Republicans had previously identified as someone they could confirm.
And that vacancy wasn’t the only one waiting to be filled when Trump assumed the presidency in January 2017. In total, 104 magistrates were open after Republicans used their majority in the Senate to almost completely slow down the confirmation process in the last two. Obama’s years in office.
Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Legal Affairs Committee and a strong critic of Trump, said that the outgoing president’s judicial legacy is “much less than what he has done than what he has allowed others to do on his behalf.”
Whitehouse said Trump essentially delegated judicial nominations to McConnell and the Federalist Society, especially group leader Leonard Leo and former White House legal adviser Don McGahn.
At the same time, the Federalist Society and other conservative groups, such as the Judicial Crisis Network and Americans for Prosperity, have received millions of dollars in anonymous donations and launched public and behind-the-scenes campaigns by right-wing judges, Whitehouse said.
“That, I think, is new and obviously lends itself to corruption,” he said.
McConnell scoffed at the criticism. “The reason many of them belong to the Federalist Society is because of the central mission of the Federalist Society; return the courts to what they are supposed to do and not legislate from the magistracy.
In his campaign and at events in the White House, Trump did not tire of bragging about his judicial appointments, omitting the essential reality that McConnell had blocked Obama’s nominees.
“When I arrived we had more than 100 federal judges who had not been appointed,” he said. Now, I don’t know why Obama left it like that. It was such a great, beautiful gift to us. Why the hell did he do it? Maybe he became complacent. “
Biden has vowed to undo many of Trump’s actions, but Americans “will live with Donald Trump’s judicial legacy for decades, as a result of his judicial appointments,” said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, a center-left activism group. .
“I think it’s by far the most significant thing he’s ever been involved in,” McConnell, 78, said. “And it is the longest lasting achievement of the current government, by a wide margin.”