One of the most important duties entrusted to our President and Senators is nominating and confirming competent and qualified judges for the federal courts. This task has a multi-generational impact, as federal judges serve a life-long tenure—sometimes spanning more than half a century—and will render opinions on a sweeping number of legal issues over the course of that tenure.
Because of the significant importance of this task, our Founders saw fit to entrust both the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch with a portion of the responsibility for carrying it out. The President must choose qualified nominees, and the Senate must consider whether to confirm those nominees. The degree to which the President and Senate commit themselves to this task directly affects how great an impact will be made.
Fortunately, President Trump and the current U.S. Senate have shown a tremendous commitment to this priority, and as a result, the confirmation of qualified federal judges has constituted perhaps the most efficient corner of the federal government over the last year.
Consider these facts.
Since taking office, President Trump has nominated 13 judges for the circuit courts who have subsequently been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. That includes 12 circuit judges confirmed in the first year of his presidency—a record number.
In addition, 10 district court judges have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Those two numbers would be impressive enough on their own, but they exist against the backdrop of the most significant achievement in this area which the ACLJ championed —the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
There are two main reasons for this significant success.
First, President Trump has shown a consistent commitment to this cause dating back to his campaign, during which he took the unprecedented step of releasing a “short list” of judges he would consider appointing in the wake of a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. He has since added names to that list, and has also swiftly chosen qualified nominees for openings at all levels of the federal courts.
Next, the Senate Judiciary Committee—under the direction of Chairman Chuck Grassley—has made the consideration of federal judges its top priority. In addition to the confirmed nominees mentioned above, the Judiciary Committee has considered and reported to the Senate floor an additional 33 nominees (4 circuit, 29 district).
It is important to note that the Committee’s consideration of these nominees has been deliberate and thorough, and that Senators of both parties have taken advantage of the opportunity to probe the nominees’ qualifications and temperament.
That said, Chairman Grassley has rightly recognized that the Senate’s constitutional role in this process is clearly paramount to any single Senator’s view of a given nominee. As such, he has wisely resisted the call from some to give a single Senator de facto veto power over nominees from his/her home state. Some have wrongly described the Senate’s “blue slip” custom as bestowing the right for a single Senator to veto a nominee. That description is both extra-constitutional and contrary to the traditions of the Senate. As we told you, Chairman Grassley has rightly consulted with a nominee’s home state Senators, and simultaneously declined to afford them absolute veto power.
In two such instances (Judge Michael Brennan for the 7th Circuit and David Stras for the 8th Circuit), the Committee saw fit to report nominees who were being obstructed by home state Senators. In each case, the Committee found these nominees to be worthy of reporting to the full Senate. Judge Stras was subsequently confirmed, and Judge Brennan awaits a final vote by the full Senate. In each case, Chairman Grassley deserves commendation for his proper understanding of the Senate’s constitutional role.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has likewise shown a necessary commitment to devoting time for the consideration of these nominees. The consideration of judges has been a regular topic on the Senate floor, and the results speak volumes.
The ACLJ continues to encourage the U.S. Senate to remain in session as long as it takes to fully process all of the nominees who are reported out of the Judiciary Committee. In the past, we have noted that the Senate and the President have been doing the right thing when it comes to appointing supremely qualified individuals to fill the federal courts.
The bottom line is that your voice has made a difference. President Trump and the United States Senate—and the Senate Judiciary Committee, in particular—are running the most efficient corner of the federal government. The impact of this efficiency will be felt in the Judicial Branch for decades to come.
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