Scott Jennings: Trump is making the right choices for the federal judiciary after the Obama-era made it too left-leaning
Democrats' criticism of the President's conservative court nominees shows that they are out of touch with citizens who take their faith seriously, he writes
Editor’s Note: Scott Jennings is a CNN contributor and former special assistant to President George W. Bush. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Sitting atop the Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville on Monday morning was the who’s who of Kentucky’s legal community, all gathered to witness the investiture of John Kenneth Bush, President Donald Trump’s latest appointee to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Overlooking the banks of the Ohio River, 6h Circuit Chief Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr. pointed out that the limited number of cases taken by the Supreme Court each year makes appointments to the circuit court – the level just below the high court – among the most important any president makes.
On that score, President Trump has hit home run after home run by appointing conservative lawyers to the various circuit court vacancies. In Bush, he found a highly qualified, Harvard-educated lawyer dedicated to the US Constitution and the nation’s founding principles (he even named his dogs after Founding Fathers). During his confirmation, liberals expressed outraged that Bush had once written that America’s two “greatest tragedies” were “slavery and abortion.” Imagine that – a pro-life, Republican president nominated a pro-life judge.
A few weeks before Bush was nominated, the 6th Circuit received from Trump another Kentuckian, Amul Thapar, previously appointed federal district judge by President George W. Bush. My advice: take Thapar in the first round of your fantasy future Supreme Court Justice draft. You won’t regret it. Thapar is a rock solid conservative judge whose name is on the lips of every Federalist Society member in Washington. He’s close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and well-thought of by key White House lawyers.
Trump is driving liberals nuts with his circuit court nominations. Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett, nominated by Trump for the 7th Circuit, was pilloried in a committee hearing by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein for being – gasp – a Catholic. Feinstein has come under criticism (including from the presidents of both Notre Dame and Princeton) since she had a melt down over Barrett’s faith, further exposing just how out-of-touch today’s Democratic Party is with Americans who still take their faith seriously.
I suspect Feinstein was just as worried about Barrett’s age and resume as she was her Catholicism. Barrett is in her mid 40s and counts a clerkship with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia among her past jobs. She’s a strong conservative who will fill an important seat for a very long time. The same can be said of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who Trump nominated to yet another vacancy in the 6th Circuit.
Young, Scalia-trained additions to the federal bench have Democrats pulling their hair out.
President Trump has made 14 nominations for current or future circuit court vacancies, with three already confirmed (Kevin Newsom of Alabama, another strong conservative, was confirmed last month). Trump is outpacing President Barack Obama in circuit court confirmations and overall judicial nominations at this point in their presidencies. Sources in the White House tell me to expect more waves of conservative judicial nominations this fall.
While Trump faces trials and tribulations on other policy matters, he’s absolutely nailing his judicial appointments. Obama appointed about 40% of the federal judiciary by the time he left office, while Bush 43 appointed just over one-third of it. Obama’s appointees were, in many cases, extremely liberal, ideologically driven people who dragged their circuits drastically to the left. Presidents have enormous impact on the judiciary, especially if their party controls the Senate for some part of their term.
If President Trump’s first year in office is any indication, conservatives should be very happy with this reshaping of the federal bench, particularly at the appellate level. Undoing the damage done to the appellate courts by Obama is a key reason why Trump must do everything he can to maintain Republican control of the US Senate in the 2018 midterm election.
If Feinstein’s reaction to Barrett is any indication, Democrats would love nothing more than to shut down the Trump Train’s drop-offs at the federal courthouse.