October 31, 2008

The Appellate Courts and the Next President

Jonathan Adler has an interesting piece today in the National Review Online in which he analyzes the impact that the next president will have on federal appellate courts. He states that although President Bush and Republicans have had a great impact on the federal judiciary, with 56 out of the current 179 appellate court judges nominated by Mr. Bush or prior Republican presidents, “in just a single term, a President Obama could flip the federal judiciary, such that a clear majority of federal appellate judges would be Democratic nominees.”

Adler points to a recent analysis by Russell Wheeler, former deputy director of the Federal Judicial Center. The analysis reveals that many judges will be nominated by the next president through existing vacancies, judges opting for senior status, and through the creation of 14 new seats, which has been recommended by the U.S. Judicial Conference. Adler writes:

“If Wheeler’s estimates are correct, this would mean that a President Obama would have the opportunity to fill 61 appellate spots in his first four years. In other words, a President Obama could come close to matching President Bush’s influence on the U.S. Courts of Appeals in just his single term, as he would name almost one-third of the federal appellate judges on the bench. This would also increase the percentage of sitting federal appellate judges picked by Democratic presidents up to 58 percent.”

Adler raises a valid point: with a possibly Democratic Congress and White House, Democrats’ control of the judiciary would be inevitable. Even if it was not Halloween, this would still be a pretty scary thought.

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