Exciting, no? Unless you take the view that it happens with pretty much every White House. Barack Obama, too, remade the lower courts with effects that will last for generations. Federal judges have life tenure and decide big issues. Same with George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. All came in with a Senate majority and definite views on judges they wanted to appoint.
Yes, judicial appointments are a core accomplishment of Trump’s presidency. But keep in perspective just how slowly and incrementally these things change. For the 851 seats in the federal judiciary overall — which collectively make final decisions for all but the 70 or so cases the US Supreme Court agrees to hear — four or even eight years just isn’t enough to chisel final triumphs or dash recurring hopes.
What Trump did do was stop what would otherwise have been a 12- or 16‐year stretch of straight liberal appointments — a true generational shift — if a Hillary Clinton presidency had succeeded Obama’s.
Consider that when Obama took office, 10 of the 13 federal circuits had majority Republican‐appointed judges. By January 2017, only four circuits had GOP‐appointed majorities, while nine were Democratic‐appointed majorities. Quite the shift.
When Trump came in, thanks in part to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, there were a lot of vacancies. His 167 nominations as of Jan. 29, representing about 20 percent of the 851 seats, exceed those of his three predecessors, who had between 111 and 140 by this point. When it comes to actual confirmations, Trump is around the middle of the pack with 85, ahead of Obama (62) but behind Bush (100) and Clinton (128).