Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Washington Post estimates that Trump will inherit 103 vacancies, and the federal court system estimates 127 using a slightly different methodology that includes announced vacancies.

...The federal court system is already dominated by Democratic presidents' appointments. Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution estimated last month that Democratic appointees currently hold 51 percent of the 673 district court judgeships, with Republicans holding only 34 percent and the remainder being vacant. In the next four years, 216 district court judges (the majority of them Republican appointees) will be eligible to take retirement or senior status.

On the appeals court level, Trump will have an immediate opportunity to appoint 17 judges to vacancies among the 179 circuit court judgeships. Based on Wheeler's estimates, Democratic appointees currently comprise 51 percent of circuit court judges, with Republican appointees holding 40 percent and the vacancies accounting for the rest....

Many conservatives who reluctantly voted for Trump did so on the promise that he might turn the nation's courts in a more conservative direction. The current Supreme Court vacancy is just one part of that fight — given that the high court only hears so many cases, the overall composition of the lower courts is nearly as important. They will not have to wait too long to see whether Trump's word was good — or at least whether he will leave it to the conservatives in his administration to bring him the names for his appointments.