Judicial Nominations 2019 – Year in Review

2019 was one hell of a year for judicial confirmations.  Freed from the time-consuming schedule of a Supreme Court nomination, the Senate plowed through over 100 judicial confirmations, dramatically reshaping both the courts of appeals and district courts.  

Nominations and Confirmations

This year, the Senate confirmed 20 appellate judges and 80 district court judges (as well as two judges to the Court of International trade).  As such, President Trump has had 187 confirmations as of the third year of his presidency.  In comparison, President Obama saw 124 confirmations by the end of the third year of his presidency, President Bush saw 168, and President Clinton saw 175.

Failed Nominations

The expanded Republican majority in the Senate from the 2018 elections and the frequent absences of Democratic senators running for President have allowed Republicans to push through many nominees on narrow party-line votes.  As such, the Administration has been relatively successful at pushing through its nominees, even controversial ones.

Nonetheless, a handful of Trump nominees have been blocked from confirmation in 2019.  Namely, judicial nominees John O’Connor and Maureen Ohlhausen were not renominated at the beginning of the 116th Congress.  Furthermore, the nomination of Michael Bogren to the Western District of Michigan was withdrawn in the face of Republican opposition (similar opposition has stalled the nomination of Judge Halil Ozerden to the Fifth Circuit).  Additionally, Judge Thomas Marcelle, nominated for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, withdrew due to failure to get blue slips from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Demographics of Confirmed Nominees

Let’s take a look at demographics of the 102 confirmed Trump appointees this year.

Age

In the past Congress, the average age of Trump’s appointees ranged between 50-51, in line with previous presidents.  This Congress, the average age of the Trump appointees is slightly younger at 49 years of age, which is still not too far from the presidential average.

The oldest Trump appointee tapped for the federal bench this year is Judge John Milton Younge, a Democrat who was first nominated to the federal bench by President Obama but blocked by Republicans.  Younge was 64 when confirmed.  The youngest was Judge Allison Rushing, who was just 36 when she was confirmed to the Fourth Circuit.

Race

Trump’s judicial confirmations continue to be overwhelmingly white, although the ratio has improved significantly since the previous congress.  Twenty of the 100 judges confirmed this Congress were non-white: seven Asian; six Hispanic; and seven African American judges respectively.

Gender

Of the 100 nominees confirmed this year, 26 are female: 5 appellate appointees and 21 district court appointees.  These numbers (26% female) are slightly better than the previous congress, where the appointees were around 22% female.  However, they still are lower than the 42% female figure President Obama managed to hit.

LGBTQ Identity

This year, the Senate confirmed two nominees who identify as members of the LGBTQ community: Judge Mary Rowland to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; and Patrick Bumatay to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Looking Ahead

Largely due to rules changes muscled through by the enlarged Republican majority, President Trump has succeeded in dramatically reshaping the federal bench in 2019.  However, his success has reduced the number of nominees who would be expected to be confirmed next year.  When the Senate recessed, it left just five pending judicial nominees on the Senate floor.  Nonetheless, while all of Washington will spend much time absorbed in an impeachment fight next year, the senate will likely continue its processing of judicial nominees.

3 Comments

  1. Can some one here explain to me how the gender, race, religion, or orientation of a judge effects what the text of the constitution and of laws says? If it doesn’t, then why are those characteristics important? Shouldn’t intelligence, competence, character experience and judicial philosophy be the only considerations?
    I think about 16% of Obama’s judicial appointees were African-American despite the fact that less than 5% of the lawyers in the US are African-American, and that a far smaller percentage of lawyers with even the minimum resume and experience to be a federal judge are African-American. Wouldn’t that imply that Obama sacrificed quality on the alter of identity politics?
    The heavy focus on identity over individuality in the left’s criticism of Trump’s judicial appointments is all of a piece. Your side is loosing badly on this issue now, so something must be wrong (in your mind). None of the other flimsy arguments the whiners make hold up, so why not throw out another absurd one, right?
    Do you not get how badly identity politics is harming the country? It may be an existential threat to the country. Do you honestly not understand how damaging the focus on identity is to a liberal, open society?
    But in fairness, ya’ll aren’t nearly as bad about it as most of the left.

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    • I think you are missing the point. The federal judiciary should be reflective of the people it serves. No one is suggesting that quality be sacrificed in nominating a minority candidate, just that diversity also be considered a factor. In terms of overall qualifications, President Obama nominees as a whole were more qualified than some of the nominees we are seeing from this administration, so that puts a hole in your argument that some how less qualified nominees were put forward during the Obama years.
      Trump’s nominees appear to be the least diverse group going back all the way to the Reagan administration. The fact that only 22% of nominees were female at a time when women make up roughly half the population of practicing attorneys, is slightly embarrassing. You are trying to politicize these judiciary appointments to fit your own agenda.
      I’m all for qualified, fair-minded, diverse and mainstream nominees dedicated to serving this country as federal judges – we all benefit when this is the case.

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      • “In terms of overall qualifications, President Obama nominees as a whole were more qualified than some of the nominees we are seeing from this administration”
        Assumes facts not in evidence. And don’t give me the BS about ABA ratings. Those are, by the ABA’s admission, subjective. And despite the ABA’s denial, partisan. In fact, if you read a recent article at Vox, a progressive bemoaning Trump’s appointments freely admitted that Trump’s nominees at the appeals court level were more qualified than Obama’s. If fact, your use of the words “as a whole” and “some” are a tell that you realize you don’t have a point.
        ” The federal judiciary should be reflective of the people it serves. ”
        That sort of sloppy sentimentalism carries with it the assumption that a judge’s race, gender, religion, or orientation mean that they can not make a ruling based on the text. Even worse, it assumes that people are merely parts of collective rather than individuals. I reject both premises.
        “You are trying to politicize these judiciary appointments to fit your own agenda” Pure projection. The reason the left is wailing about Trump’s judicial appointments is that they recognize You are trying to politicize these judiciary appointments to fit your own agenda their free hand in advancing their pet causes via judicial fiat is in danger. And that there is a non trivial risk that a good deal of the agenda they have advanced via the judiciary is at risk of being overturned. The honest phrasing of your complaint is that Trump isn’t politicizing the judiciary and you want him to.
        “I’m all for qualified, fair-minded, diverse and mainstream nominees…” All three adjectives in that phrase are weasel words. They have no specific meaning and a really just intended to imply that people who disagree with you are unreasonable or maybe even morally inferior. Your resort to such language is a tell that you don’t have a real argument.

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