Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Introducing ‘Judicial Winning’

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Since his inauguration, President Trump has appointed over 200 federal judges, including two Supreme Court justices and 53 judges on the second-highest courts in the land, the circuit courts of appeals. Even with months to go before this presidential term concludes, this circuit-judge total already surpasses that of every first presidential term except for Jimmy Carter’s — and his slightly higher total of circuit appointments (56) was only possible because the Omnibus Judgeship Act of 1978 created 35 new appellate judgeships.

Under Trump, three of the circuits have flipped from a majority appointed by Democratic presidents to a Republican-appointed majority, and every circuit-court vacancy has been filled. These confirmations would not have been possible without the skill and perseverance of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans, who had to overcome unprecedented obstruction by Senate Democrats.

Most important, however, is the quality of the judges. Since the advent of modern debate over constitutional interpretation, no administration has appointed a comparable list of judges who are committed to originalism and textualism. That translates to dedication to the rule of law and a shunning of the practice we have too often witnessed of judges injecting their policy preferences into their decisions. Litigants who appear before Trump-appointed judges can have confidence that they will get a fair shake, not a dose of judicial legislation. We now have more jurists committed to protecting rights and structural commands articulated by the Constitution.

Over the next few months, we will provide you with vignettes of opinions by some of these recently appointed judges. These men and women of the bench are not household names, and more Americans deserve an introduction to them. They are the people upon whom we rely to make our system of justice work. In some cases, their voices are heard in dissenting opinions. They remind us of the need to remain vigilant of the importance of judicial nominations. After all, none of the judicial success our country has enjoyed would have been possible if Hillary Clinton had been elected president in 2016, and the answer to the question of whether we build on this success or undo it is one election away.


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