President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate are pushing through nominations for federal judges at an unusually fast pace ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. That’s when the GOP could lose its majority and end the easy path to confirmation for Trump’s nominees.
As political scientists who study diversity and the federal bench, we keep an eye on nominations and confirmations. As of early June, Trump has the opportunity to fill 216 vacant seats out of 890, or almost 25 percent of the entire federal bench. There is no question: His appointments will move the courts ideologically to the right. About 39 percent of his nominees are replacing Democratic appointees.
We also find that Trump is in the process of producing a substantially more conservative and less diverse federal bench, in terms of race and gender.
Diversity is critical to the court’s legitimacy. Put simply, people tend to view diverse institutions as more fair, accessible and open. The less the face of the judiciary reflects the diversity of the nation, the more difficult it is for the courts to maintain their legitimacy.
Reversing a Trend
Trump is nominating men and women who share his conservative philosophy. These nominees are vetted by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal advocacy group, to ensure they have appropriate conservative credentials and jurisprudence.
This is certainly vexing to Democrats, but not unusual. President Obama did the same thing– picking men and women for the bench that were in his ideological mold, as did most presidents before him.
Additionally, Trump’s nominees are significantly less diverse than those of other recent presidents. Our last three presidents have valued diversity and appointed significant numbers of women and people of color. This trend still held true even while Democrat and Republican presidents were appointing ideologically aligned judges. President Trump is reversing this trend and as a result, the bench is becoming…