The federal appeals courts could become more conservative if President Donald Trump is reelected, The Washington Free Beacon reports.
Administration allies say if Trump wins a second term he will be able to replace many judges nominated by Democrats.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told the Washington Free Beacon that about two-thirds of the president’s judicial appointments so far have been to replace Republican-appointed judges. If elected to a second term, he would be able to replace more liberal judges with conservative ones.
Research obtained by the Free Beacon conducted by advocacy group Article III Project (A3P), shows that 59 circuit court judges were eligible for "senior status," a type of quasi-retirement, at the start of 2020. Of the pool of judges eligible, about 60 percent of them were Democrat appointees.
"In President Trump's second term, Republicans could take control of all 13 of the critically important U.S. Courts of Appeals, the last stop for 99 percent of all federal appeals," A3P president Mike Davis told the Free Beacon.
When Trump first took office, Democrat appointees had the majority on nine circuit courts. The GOP had the majority on four. So far, Trump has flipped three of the panels conservative.
Davis predicts Trump will be able to turn more if he is reelected. In the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 10 Democratic appointees will be eligible for senior status by January 2023. With only a three-seat advantage over GOP appointees, Trump could possibly flip the panel.
"If President Trump is reelected, he could do the unthinkable for a Republican and flip the Ninth Circuit to conservative control," Davis said.
Another panel up for grabs is the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the Carolinas, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Judges put in their roles by Democrats only have a one-seat majority on that court. Six of them will be eligible for senior status by 2023, according to A3P's figures.
But if former Vice President Joe Biden is elected, he would likely be able to maintain the Democrat majority. Two of the conservative judges are at least 75 years old and 24 of the GOP appointees are eligible for semi-retirement.
Appointments to the circuit court are important because they often have the final say on a majority of federal cases that don’t make it to the Supreme Court. Serving as a circuit judge is also a pathway toward serving as a member on the High Court. According to the Free Beacon, eight of the nine justices were previously circuit judges.
Trump may even be able to make additional appointments to the Supreme Court, which could turn it more conservative.
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