American Government

The Battle Over Filling Vacancies Within The Federal Court System

One of the most controversial, yet under-reported issues in our politics today is the incredible rush to fill the existing vacancies that currently exist within the federal court system. Back in 2017, after the Republican Party took control of the White House and had a majority of members in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate, a deliberate goal was set to quickly fill as many federal judgeships as possible with young, conservative judges that could effectively control the U.S. legal system for decades into the future. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell back in 2017 said in an interview with NPR … “There are over 1,200 executive branch appointments that come to us for confirmation, and among the most important — in fact, I would argue, the most important — confirmations we have are lifetime appointments to the judiciary,” … “Obviously, this is my top priority.”

In just over three years of the current administration, the Senate has confirmed 52 circuit court judges appointed by the Trump administration, the effects of which are starting to be felt. President Trump has already appointed 10 judges to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is slightly over one-third of all Ninth Circuit judges. For comparison, President Obama only appointed seven judges to the Ninth Circuit over his eight years in office. While the circuit still has a majority of judges appointed by Democratic presidents, the circuit is close to flipping. In a recent article, Judge Milan Smith Jr., a President George W. Bush appointee, said “Trump has effectively flipped the circuit.” He was not the only one to notice changes on the circuit as an unnamed Ninth Circuit judge said, “Ten new people at once sends a shock wave through the system.” As of February 27, there are 80 Article III vacancies, 72 of which are current. Once the remaining nominees are officially nominated, there will be 41 pending nominees … with 4 waiting for floor votes, 12 waiting to be reported out of Committee, and 25 waiting for Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. In June, the Senate confirmed the 200th judicial appointment for the current administration

So, here are my questions for you to ponder about this important issue that has largely gone unaddressed in our national discourse …

Question: (Part 1 of the Assignment) …. Due by Friday at 11:00 PM

Should WE THE PEOPLE be accepting of this longstanding system of selection for filling vacancies in the federal courts ? … (Please offer your reason for your support or for your resistance to continuing this practice.)

Should any president have so much power to control both the present and the future judicial process with his/her enormous power to appoint these federal judges ?

Question: (Part 2 of the Assignment) …. Due by Friday at 11:00 PM


In answering this question, you may want to consider why these appointments are so important to our democracy ?

Reply to Another Student’s Response: (Part 3 of the Assignment) …. Due by Sunday at 11:00 PM

As always, take your time contemplating this intriguing situation and have some “cerebral fun” with this assignment question. Although there are certainly partisan political underpinnings to this topic, it really is a valid democratic issue that needs to be addressed by WE THE PEOPLE if we are to insure a properly functioning legal system in our nation going forward !

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