Today’s WSJ has a good story on President Obama’s tremendous opportunity to shape the federal judiciary, which also notes that President Bush’s influence on the judiciary, particularly on federal appellate courts, was not as great as his predecessor’s was or his successor’s is likely to be.
During their eight years in office, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush installed 66 and 60 federal appellate judges, respectively. Court watchers argue that Mr. Clinton had a greater impact on the appellate courts because more of his appointments replaced appointees made by presidents from the opposing party.
Mr. Obama will face roughly a quarter of those numbers in vacancies — 16 — by the end of his first year. But he could pick up more if Congress passes a law providing for an additional 14 appellate judges. The law stalled in Congress last year, but Mr. Wheeler and others suspect that given the current makeup in Congress, the law could pass early within Mr. Obama’s first term. “It seems a safe assumption that the new Congress will do whatever it takes to create new judgeships,” he said.