The Age Question

Earlier this year, various news reports announced that the White House Counsel’s Office was interviewing several lawyers in their late 30s and early 40s for judgeships.  The youth of these prospective nominees became the fodder of much consternation for liberals, and enthusiasm for conservatives.  Six months into the Trump Administration, it is worth looking at the nominees submitted to see if they are, on the age front, out of the mainstream for judicial nominations.

Court of Appeals Nominees:

President Trump has selected nine nominees to the federal appellate bench. They (along with their year of birth) are:

  • Stephanos Bibas (1969) – Third Circuit
  • Judge Amul Thapar (1969) – Sixth Circuit
  • John Bush (1964) – Sixth Circuit
  • Joan Larsen (1968) – Sixth Circuit
  • Prof. Amy Coney Barrett (1972) – Seventh Circuit
  • Justice David Stras (1974) – Eighth Circuit
  • Judge Ralph Erickson (1959) – Eighth Circuit
  • Justice Allison Eid (1965) – Tenth Circuit
  • Kevin Newsom (1972) – Eleventh Circuit

The average birth year of these nominees is 1968, giving them an average age of 49.

In comparison, the first nine nominees submitted by the Obama Administration were:

  • O. Rogeriee Thompson (1951) – First Circuit
  • Judge Gerald Lynch (1951) – Second Circuit
  • Judge Joseph Greenaway (1957) – Third Circuit
  • Judge Thomas Vanaskie (1953) – Third Circuit
  • Judge Andre Davis (1949) – Fourth Circuit
  • Justice Barbara Milano Keenan (1950) – Fourth Circuit
  • Jane Stranch (1953) – Sixth Circuit
  • Judge David Hamilton (1957) – Seventh Circuit
  • Judge Beverly Martin (1955) – Eleventh Circuit

The average birth year of these nominees is 1952.9, which, in 2009, gave them an average age of 56.1.

By this comparison, Trump’s appellate nominees are, on average, about seven years younger than Obama’s, a significant difference.

However, to have a truly accurate comparison, we have to look at previous presidents as well.

President Bush announced his first eleven appellate nominees in a joint ceremony on May 9, 2001.  Setting aside Judges Roger Gregory and Barrington Daniels Parker, who were both Democrats chosen for bipartisanship, we can look to the other nine conservatives as a comparison.  They were:

  • Miguel Estrada (1961) – D.C. Circuit
  • John Roberts (1955) – D.C. Circuit
  • Judge Terrence Boyle (1945) – Fourth Circuit
  • Judge Dennis Shedd (1953) – Fourth Circuit
  • Judge Edith Brown Clement (1948) – Fifth Circuit
  • Justice Priscilla Owen (1954) – Fifth Circuit
  • Justice Deborah Cook (1952) – Sixth Circuit
  • Jeffrey Sutton (1960) – Sixth Circuit
  • Prof. Michael McConnell (1955) – Tenth Circuit

These nine have an average birth year of 1953.7, which, in 2001, translates to an average age of 47.3.  This not only makes them younger than Trump’s nominees, it also makes them, in absolute terms, younger than Obama’s as well.

President’s Clinton’s first nine appellate nominees were:

  • Judge Judith Ann Wilson Rogers (1939) – D.C. Circuit
  • Judge Pierre Leval (1936) – Second Circuit
  • M. Blane Michael (1943) – Fourth Circuit
  • Judge Diana Gribbon Motz (1943) – Fourth Circuit
  • Fortunato Benavides (1947) – Fifth Circuit
  • Judge Robert Manley Parker (1937) – Fifth Circuit
  • Judge Carl Stewart (1950) – Fifth Circuit
  • Justice Martha Craig Daughtrey (1942) – Sixth Circuit
  • Justice Rosemary Barkett (1939) – Eleventh Circuit

These nine nominees had an average birth year of 1941.8 and an age (in 1993) of 51.2.

In other words, the average age of President Trump’s appellate appointees, 49, falls squarely between those of President Bush’s (47.3), and President Clinton’s (51.2).  The only outlier is the group of nominees submitted by President Obama, who are significantly older than the norm.

District Court Nominees

As of July 3, 2017, President Trump has announced seven district court nominees.  The oldest of the nominees is Judge David Nye, born in 1958.  The youngest is Trevor McFadden, born in 1978.  The seven nominees have an average birth year of 1967, and an average age of 50.

In comparison, the average birth year of the first six nominees made by President Obama is 1960, with an average age of 49.

The average birth year of the first seven nominees made by President Bush is 1949, with an average age of 52.

The average birth year of the first ten nominees made by President Clinton is 1943.5, with an average age of 49.5,

In other words, the age of President Trump’s district court nominees is within the mainstream of the previous three presidents.

Setting aside the hype on both sides, Trump’s judicial nominees, at least so far, are not significantly younger than the nominees of previous presidents.  Rather than spending more ink criticizing the youth of Trump’s nominees, it may be worth pondering why the Obama Administration squandered its own opportunity to appoint young liberals to the bench, instead choosing judges in their late 50s and early 60s.

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