Most Americans think of Supreme Court nominations as the most important. But nominations to the Supreme Court are hens’ teeth compared to openings on other federal courts.
As London’s The Guardian points out, the U.S. Courts of Appeal decided 58,000 cases in 2016… as opposed to just 69 decisions reached by the Supreme Court.
Guess who has the larger effect on legal matters?
99.9% of cases are decided in courts lower than the Supreme Court. Yes; the judges in the highest court of the land wield outsized power… but it’s on an under-sized selection of cases.
Most cases are settled in lower federal courts. And Donald Trump came into office with about 10% of the federal judiciary up for grabs.
So far, 92% of his nominees have been white males – significantly out of line with the make-up of our citizenry. Not since Ronald Reagan has a president nominated such a white male judiciary. And Reagan’s record only just barely beats Trump’s.
A Judiciary That Simply Doesn’t Reflect America
According to USA Today, minority enrollment in law schools has tripled since Reagan’s day. So, it’s not that Trump doesn’t have qualified minority candidates to choose from. He simply passes over them in favor of conservative white males.
Compare Trump’s record to President Obama’s. A third of Obama’s judicial nominees were members of minorities.
Obama worked to make the federal judiciary a closer reflection of the people they serve. Trump is actively working to reverse the trend. And this may be his most dangerous legacy.
Congressmen face election every two years. Senators every six. But federal judges are appointed for life. Many of Trumps white male judges are under 50. Which means they could influence the country’s direction for decades.
Even worse, four of Trump’s nominees have been rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association (ABA). It’s the first time in 11 years any nominee has received this rating. And Trump managed it with FOUR of his niminees.
Trump’s nominees are often on the fringe. According to The Guardian, one equated practicing Islam to being a terrorist. Another said Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s support for gay rights made him a “judicial prostitute.”
Ideology matters more to Trump than qualifications… and his cronies in the Senate are approving his appointments at a breakneck pace. Even unqualified candidates. And there’s virtually nothing the progressive opposition can do.
Except get out the vote.
If we turn the Senate in 2020, we can block the worst appointments to federal courts. Even if Trump wins re-election. We can keep unqualified ideologues from making outrageous, unconstitutional decisions that warp America’s laws for generations.
That’s what’s at stake. That’s what we have to lose… or to win. Progressives need to organize… to build coalitions… to get Americans out to vote.
If we don’t, America’s Democracy may just go the way of the dodo.