Monday, December 26, 2016

Trump to inherit more than 100 court vacancies, plans to reshape judiciary

I have no doubt Trump will nominate people likely to rule in favor of big business against the interests of most of us.

By Philip Rucker and Robert Barnes December 25, 2016

Donald Trump is set to inherit an uncommon number of vacancies in the federal courts in addition to the open Supreme Court seat, giving the president-elect a monumental opportunity to reshape the judiciary after taking office.

The estimated 103 judicial vacancies that President Obama is expected to hand over to Trump in the Jan. 20 transition of power is nearly double the 54 openings Obama found eight years ago following George W. Bush’s presidency.

Confirmation of Obama’s judicial nominees slowed to a crawl after Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015. Obama White House officials blame Senate Republicans for what they characterize as an unprecedented level of obstruction in blocking the Democratic president’s court picks.

The result is a multitude of openings throughout the federal circuit and district courts that will allow the new Republican president to quickly make a wide array of lifetime appointments.


The Supreme Court vacancy created by Scalia’s death in February was a motivating issue for many conservative voters, especially evangelical Christians, to turn out for Trump. Senate Republicans refused to hold even a hearing on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, for the Scalia seat.


Twenty-five of Obama’s court nominees were pending on the Senate floor, after having been approved out of the committee with bipartisan support, but did not get a vote before the Senate ended its two-year term before the holidays, according to White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

“Republican tactics have been shameful and will forever leave a stain on the United States Senate,” Schultz said. “Republican congressional dysfunction has now metastasized to the third branch of government, and that is not a legacy to be proud of.”


The Trump administration and the Senate will be under pressure to quickly install judges in courts around the country where cases are severely backlogged because of long-vacant seats.

There are 38 so-called judicial emergencies, according to the nonpartisan Judicial Conference, including in Texas, where seven seats have sat empty for more than one year. The Obama administration and the state’s two conservative Republican senators could not come to an agreement on nominees for the many openings.

“There is a real impact on real people,” said W. Neil Eggleston, Obama’s White House counsel. “There are people and companies who are not having their cases heard because there are no judges around.”


While the Supreme Court hears roughly 75 cases a year, tens of thousands are decided at the circuit court level, affecting all who live in the states within those circuits.


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