On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time after the Senate acquitted President Trump in his impeachment trail, immediately filing cloture on a number of judges as he continued his relentless march toward remaking America’s judiciary with a conservative bent. The judges included Andrew Lynn Brasher to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit, Joshua M. Kindred to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Alaska, Matthew Thomas Schelp to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri, John Fitzgerald Kness to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, and Philip M. Halpern to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York.
In March 2019, Politico reported that McConnell was intent on moving as quickly as he could to get conservative judges confirmed:
The Senate is on track to confirm the 34th Circuit Court judge of Trump’s presidency in the next week and the GOP has three more ready for floor action; that would give Trump roughly 20 percent of the Circuit Court seats in the country after just two years in office. At this rate, McConnell and Trump could leave few, if any, vacancies there for a potential Democratic president in 2021.
Even more alarming for Democrats, the GOP is also preparing to pull the trigger on the “nuclear option” and change Senate rules once again with a simple majority to allow much quicker confirmation of lower court judges in the coming months. …
Trump currently has 128 District Court vacancies to fill, and each one can take multiple days under current rules if any senator demands a delay; if Republicans change the rules, Trump could conceivably fill most of those over the next 20 months.
Speaking with radio host Hugh Hewitt in December, McConnell stated:
Just to put it in perspective, President Obama appointed 55 Circuit judges in 8 years. President Trump with our Senate confirmation has done 50 in 3 years. So the pace is dramatic. What these men and women have in common is they’re all young, they’re all smart. A heavy percentage of them have been Supreme Court clerks. They’ll be on the court for a very long time, and what they have in common is what Justice Scalia used to say – the job of a judge is to follow the law and the Constitution.
You would think that wouldn’t be such a quaint notion, but among Democratic appointees, that’s been their approach. President Obama tipped his hand when he said he wanted to appoint judges who had empathy. Well, that’s great if you’re the litigant for whom the judge has empathy, not so good if you aren’t.
He added, “Another statistic, one out of every four of the U.S. Circuit judges in the country have been put on the bench in the last three years. So we do believe with a second Trump term and a continued Senate Republican majority, we can transform the courts even further … We almost have no vacancies left at the Circuit Court level. I’ve filed cloture petitions on 13 district judges this week, and we’ll start voting on them today. And Hugh, you’ll be pleased to know that my motto for the remainder of this Congress is leave no vacancy behind.”
Author: Hank Berrien