Washington and Lee Law Review Online


President Donald Trump contends that federal appellate court appointments constitute his foremost success. The president and the United States Senate Grand Old Party (GOP) majority have compiled records by approving forty-eight conservative, young, accomplished, overwhelmingly Caucasian, and predominantly male, appeals court jurists. However, their appointments have exacted a toll, particularly on the ninety-four district courts around the country that must address eighty-seven open judicial positions in 677 posts.

One riveting example is New York’s multiple tribunals, which confront twelve vacancies among fifty-two court slots. The Administrative Office of the United States Courts considers nine of these openings “judicial emergencies,” because they have been protracted and involve substantial caseloads. Despite that pressing situation, Trump failed to propose any candidate before May 2018 and did not appoint a single jurist for a New York vacant district court position until October 2019. Indeed, eleven of thirteen openings lacked nominees until recently, mostly because prior to this May, President Trump delayed resending the upper chamber seven of eight nominees whom the White House astutely tapped last year.

This piece first recounts the background of the court appointments issue, stressing modern concerns. Part two surveys the practices of Trump and the chamber, detecting that both the president and the Republican Senate majority emphasize rapidly appointing conservative, young appellate judges but downplay vacancies in trial court positions. Segment three considers the detrimental impacts of numerous practices, determining that until recently more appellate court and district court vacancies as well as judicial emergencies existed than when President Trump assumed office. The last section proffers constructive suggestions for future judicial selection.



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