Donald Trump has sustained more than his fair share of political losses or end during the first 10 months of his presidency, mostly at the hands of the federal courts.
It was the federal courts that struck down his “Muslim travel ban” on three separate occasions, that blocked his ban on trans people in the military and that did the same to his attempt to defund so-called sanctuary cities.
But the makeup of America’s judges is quietly becoming the site of one of Trump’s most unequivocal successes: nominating and installing judges who reflect his own worldview at a speed and volume unseen in recent memory. Trump could conceivably have handpicked more than 30% of the nation’s federal judges before the end of his first term, his advisers have suggested, and independent observers agree.
“The president himself has said that he expects this to be one of his major legacies. He is going to reshape the bench for generations to come,” said Douglas Keith, counsel with the fair courts arm of the Brennan Center for Justice.
“I do think this deserves more attention given the consequence, the significance of what will eventually be a wholesale change among the federal judiciary,” he continued.
Much has been made of Trump’s failure to get legislation through Congress and received wisdom suggests that he has little to show for his first 10 months in power. However, the lasting impact that court picks have on the lives of Americans means that Trump’s choices – and the sheer numbers involved – will help reshape America for the next half-century.
Until recently little attention has been paid to Trump’s judicial appointments. But Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware and a member of the Senate judiciary committee, identified the importance of these appointments early on. In June he said: “This will be the single most important legacy of the Trump administration. They will quickly be able to put judges on circuit courts all over the country, district courts all over the country, that will, given their youth and conservatism, have a significant impact on the shape and trajectory of American law for decades.