President Donald Trump boasts that he is nominating judges to the federal bench at a faster pace than President Barack Obama did. It turns out that Trump’s judges are not only more conservative, but also more qualified, too.
As Vox.com noted last week:
There’s no completely objective way to measure legal ability, but a common metric used by legal employers to identify the most gifted lawyers is whether those lawyers secured a federal clerkship, including the most prestigious clerkships at the Supreme Court. Approximately 40 percent of Trump’s appellate nominees clerked for a Supreme Court justice, and about 80 percent clerked on a federal court of appeals. That compares to less than a quarter of Obama’s nominees who clerked on the Supreme Court, and less than half with a federal appellate clerkship.
In other words, based solely on objective legal credentials, the average Trump appointee has a far more impressive résumé than any past president’s nominees.
And they’re young, too. “The average age of circuit judges appointed by President Trump is less than 50 years old,” the Trump White House bragged in early November, “a full 10 years younger than the average age of President Obama’s circuit nominees.”
While accusing Trump of “goonish incompetence,” Vox.com was forced to acknowledge that Trump is having a “transformative” effect on the federal courts: “The judiciary is where policy is made in the United States. And that policy is likely to be made by Republican judges for the foreseeable future.”
(From a conservative perspective, the adjective “restorative” would replace “transformative”; conservatives judges generally aim to curb judicial remaking of the law.)
Obama appointed 268 district court judges over eight years, while Trump has only appointed 112 through three. But one-quarter of all appellate judges are Trump appointees — and, Politico noted Monday, Trump is even remaking the most liberal appeals court, the Ninth Circuit.
Trump essentially outsourced judicial selection to the conservative Federalist Society, offering to do so during the 2016 Republican presidential primary at a crucial moment when opposition to his candidacy threatened to consolidate.
By keeping his promise to nominate constitutional conservatives to the bench, Trump has retained the support of his party and important constituencies, especially evangelical Christians.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.