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Democrats Now Hold Majority of Appellate Court Seats

By    |   Sunday, 14 Sep 2014 10:34 AM

President Barack Obama has been quietly reversing the federal appellate courts' balances over the past six years, with Democratic appointees now holding the majority of seats on nine of the country's 13 United States Courts of Appeals.

It's a little-noticed shift with far-reaching consequences.

"With all the gridlock, it is forgotten that one of the most profound changes this Congress made was filling the bench," New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer told The New York Times. "This will affect America for a generation, long after the internecine battles on legislative issues are forgotten."

Vote Now: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance?

Judges appointed by Democratic presidents now outnumber those appointed by Republicans for the first time in more than 10 years. Even more are likely after Senate Democrats last year changed its rules to let a simple majority confirm most presidential nominees, which blocked Republicans' filibusters.

But even without the filibuster, a minority party can still require that a 60-vote majority vote be cast to confirm a court justice, The Times reports.

When Obama took office, there were 99 circuit judges appointed by Republican presidents and 65 by Democrats. Today's courts have 77 Republican appointees and 95 Democratic. Many of the nominations have been for justices who are young, meaning they could remain on the bench for decades.

The shift could have ramifications as rulings come for some of Obama's more controversial actions, including healthcare, immigration reform, and clean air, which are all facing legal challenges and will now likely end up before more liberal judges.

The appointees' impact is already showing. For example, in the 4th Circuit in Virginia, Justice Henry Floyd, who declared the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, is an Obama appointee.

The District of Columbia court, considered the second-most influential court in the country behind the Supreme Court, is also now filled with Democratic appointees. Before the filibuster rules change, the court had a majority of judges appointed by Republican presidents. However, now the court has seven Democratic appointees, four of whom Obama selected, and four Republican appointees.

“It’s no surprise that President Obama has been able to transform the ideological makeup of the courts — that happens when you have six years to pick judges and your party controls the Senate,” said Edward Whelan, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a senior official in the Justice Department under former President George W. Bush. “The best way for conservative voters to prevent further damage to the courts is to swing the Senate to Republican control in the elections this November.”

Vote Now: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance?

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President Barack Obama has been quietly reversing the federal appellate courts' balances over the past six years, with Democratic appointees now holding the majority of seats on nine of the country's 13 United States Courts of Appeals. With all the gridlock, it is...
democrats, control, appellate, court, seats
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2014-34-14
Sunday, 14 Sep 2014 10:34 AM
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