With little fanfare, the U.S. Senate in June confirmed the 125th federal court nominee of President Trump, continuing a brisk pace that is dramatically reshaping the judiciary into a more conservative bent.
That number grew to 127 this week when the Senate approved Daniel Bress to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The federal judiciary is comprised of three levels: the district court, the court of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. Although Trump’s confirmation pace for all judges is similar to previous presidents for their first two years, he is far ahead of recent presidents for appeals court confirmations -- or as one analyst put it, “big league” confirmations, according to an analysis by The Hill.
Trump saw 30 appeals court justices confirmed in his first two years, a timeframe that ended in January. That pace was ahead of that of George H.W. Bush (22), Reagan (19), Clinton (19), George W. Bush (17), Obama (16) and Carter (12).
Bress was the 42nd appeals court confirmation.
“To use a baseball analogy, you can’t just look at how many players did a team sign, right? There’s such a big difference between signing a player to the big leagues and signing someone to a Single-A contract,” Mark Carl Rom, a Georgetown University government and public policy professor, told Roll Call.
“The big leagues in the judicial system means the Supreme Court and the appellate courts. There’s no question that President Trump has been incredibly effective at putting people on the appellate courts – in fact, he’s gotten more than twice as many appeals court judges than most of the other presidents,” Rom added.
Lathan Watts, the director of legal communications for First Liberty Institute, said the appeals court is nearly as important as the U.S. Supreme Court. First Liberty is a legal organization that specializes in religious liberty cases.
“The Supreme Court really only hears about 1 percent of the appeals that are filed in a year, and that means those circuit court of appeals' decisions end up typically being the final word on a case,” Watts told Christian Headlines. “So his nominees and then their confirmation to the circuit court of appeals don't always get the same sort of attention that maybe a Supreme Court pick does. But they are extremely important because, in most cases, their opinion ends up being the final opinion.”
Trump’s judicial nominees, Watts said, have been “outstanding” for religious liberty.
Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution said Trump has flipped the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals from a Democratic-nominated majority to a Republican-nominated one. Trump’s nominees also have strengthened Republican-nominated majorities “on four courts that already had such majorities – those of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth,” Wheeler told Roll Call. Trump also has narrowed the Democratic-nominated majority in the Ninth Circuit. With Bress’ confirmation, the Ninth Circuit now has 12 Republican-nominated judges to 16 Democratic-nominated ones.
“In general, they've been excellent candidates, and I'm glad to see they're being confirmed,” Watts says.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Drew Angerer/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.