Federal judiciary continues change – for Good!

March/April 2020

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is doing his part to move confirmations through the U.S. Senate at a record pace.

The U.S. Senate managed to confirm five judges to the federal courts in the last several weeks, despite being consumed with the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump between Jan. 16 and Feb. 5 of this year.

One judge was confirmed to the Court of Appeals, the level of federal courts directly below the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court only reviews 100-150 of the roughly 50,000 cases heard by the Courts of Appeals each year, these courts have the final word on more than 99 percent of the cases that reach them. As a result, confirming judges to courts at this level is arguably the most important responsibility for reshaping the federal court system. To date, President Trump has appointed 51 of the 179 total seats at the Court of Appeals level.

Four other judges were confirmed at the district court level. These judges will not always have the final say in their cases, but they play a critical role in establishing the facts of the case. It is their factual determinations that will be used by the Courts of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court, as they review the case and apply the law. There are 663 seats at the district court level of the federal judiciary. Trump has appointed 137.

There is still room for Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate to continue transforming the federal courts. District courts still have 79 vacancies to fill and the confirmation of 37 Trump nominees are pending in the U.S. Senate. As Trump continues to serve, more vacancies are sure to open up, providing additional opportunities.

It appears that confirming judges remains a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, so more confirmations can be expected.

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