July 10th, 2017

Meanwhile…the courts begin the shift to the right

This Bloomberg article isn’t happy about it, but its headline gets the phenomenon correct: “One of the Biggest Reasons Republicans Stick by Trump.”

Indeed, this is why:

Although he’s been thwarted so far on his legislative agenda before Congress, most notably on health care, President Donald Trump has a big opportunity to reshape another branch of government outside his control: the federal judiciary. He has already moved swiftly to fill an unusual, inherited vacancy on the Supreme Court, and now his aides are working their way through a large number of openings on the lower federal courts. Some of his first picks are up for a Senate committee vote this month.

The article contains a handy chart that illustrates the situation facing Trump, as well as the opportunities. Here it is:

This is indeed one of the reasons a lot of people held their noses and voted for Trump. But there was also significant doubt about whether his lack of conservative bona fides would mean that as president he wouldn’t follow through on his promises to make judicial appointments that were reliably conservative. Of course, there’s no predicting how a justice or a judge will change over time (we’ve seen plenty of that sort of thing, mainly right to left). But so far, in terms of judicial appointments, Trump is exceeding the expectations of most conservatives who felt they had reason to doubt him (I was one of those people).

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this. It will affect the legal system far into the future.

12 Responses to “Meanwhile…the courts begin the shift to the right”

  1. parker Says:

    I voted for djt because hrc. Mostly pleased so far at the results.

  2. Big Maq Says:

    trump is meeting the expectation he set (in October). If he continues down that path with similar nominations, then he certainly deserves credit for that.

    Not sure what the numbers looked like at the end of Bush I, but assuming trump fills with conservatives all the vacancies (now and as they come up), the courts look remarkably “balanced”, reflecting electoral changes every eight years.

    Currently, it only looks to be three for District Courts, and one for Circuit Court of Appeals to bring total seats to even.

    Still the DC and Second Circuit Courts perhaps have outsized relative influence and they are still largely liberal.

  3. Ira Says:

    I loudly echo parker’s sentiments.

    Further, the Senate needs to abolish the blue-slip process in the same way it abolished the filibuster.


    No Democrat has yet returned a “blue slip” signaling acceptance of President Trump’s federal judicial picks — an ominous sign for Republicans, who fear it signals an upcoming attempt to slow-walk the administration’s plans to reshape the federal judiciary.

    Senator Tom Cotton anticipated this 2 months ago. See,

    “I think the blue slip tradition can be helpful if it encourages the White House to consult in advance with senators,” Cotton told [Hugh] Hewitt, an avowed opponent of the blue slip rule. “But we can’t allow Democratic senators to continue to obstruct this president’s agenda. If they’re just arbitrarily not returning blue slips, we have to consider changing that tradition to one of its past other forms.”

  4. Cornhead Says:

    While Obama nominated Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. of Nebraska for the district court, he is a Republican and was unanimously approved by the Senate.

  5. Kelly Says:

    Last June most of my relatives were here for my daughters graduations. All die hard conservatives. We all groused and bitched about Trump. We were never going to vote for him. Ever. Most of us did end up voting for him for one reason and one reason only. The Supreme Court. Considering Trump never got a majority of votes in most of the republican primaries I’m guessing many people felt the same way. His base has to be very very small. I just wonder how big of an issue that will be during the next election cycle?

  6. AesopFan Says:

    Conservatives or Republicans, as the case may be, have to make twice as many appointments as Democrats because of the slow bleed from Right to Left.

  7. Esther Says:

    Good job! This is the important part. Complain about the other stuff so no one notices…

  8. Julia Says:

    It’s interesting that many ‘changers’ go from left to right, but the judicial ‘changers’ go in the opposite direction. I wonder why…

  9. Big Maq Says:

    “I just wonder how big of an issue that will be during the next election cycle?” – Kelly

    Good question.

    A lot depends on a few things, probably in order of importance:

    1) Will trump avoid exhausting us all with his distractive and erratic tweets, and avoid any major disaster or setback due to them, the WH infighting, and overall lack of a focused organization?
    His very low approval ratings hint at a desire for change if this continues, or turns south. The GOP now are rather interwined with trump, so expect this to affect the mid-terms.

    2) Will the dems wake up and bring themselves “back to the center” vs just rabid and over the top trump opposition? And, for 2020, find someone fresh and credible who will champion that (providing a “real” alternative to trump – as many seem stuck on a binary choice)? Enough to motivate the dems who stayed home in 2016, and perhaps swing some from the right?

    3) Will trump prove to be more “conservative” than his past (and philosophically incoherent campaign) suggests, racking up some strong and lasting changes that improve our economics while turning the tide on government scope? Enough to motivate those GOP voters who stayed at home in 2016, and not look for an alternative?

    4) Will trump deliver on the changes his swing dem voters want and expect, preventing dems from recapturing those votes in the mid-west?

    No doubt there are other factors, but this ought to give a flavor of what we can expect will impact the next election cycle.

  10. neo-neocon Says:


    I have a theory about that: the temptations of power.

    Regular folk don’t gain more power if they’re on the left versus the right (unless the become activist revolutionaries, and often not even then). But judges who move to the left, even somewhat, immediately gain the power to change things more radically (as opposed to judges devoted to the Constitution). If you’re a leftist judge, you believe the law “evolves” much more radically, and you are able to use it as an instrument to bend things to your wishes re social justice and the like.

    I think it’s very seductive.

  11. Bill Says:

    It’s the one positive of the Trump era – the judicial appointments.

    There’s a smoking gun now regarding collusion with the Russians (DTJrs email). Doubt it will sway too many here but the effect it will have on Trump is further diminishing the chances of legislative wins for him like Healthcare, a wall, infrastructure, etc. This will help mire him more deeply in the distractions of his own making.

  12. Bill Says:

    … so from my point of view, the judicial appointments are his best chance at positive action right now.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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