Reported by Madison Dibble | February 24, 2020 12:41 PM
President Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate have taken the reliably liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and tilted it to the Right. The 9th Circuit is the largest circuit court, covering many of the West Coast states, including California, Hawaii, and Arizona. The court just received its 10th judge from the Trump administration, effectively changing the court’s liberal makeup into a more ideologically diverse lineup. In just three years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump joined forces to place more justices to lifetime appointments on the 9th Circuit than President Barack Obama did in his eight years in office.
One judge from the circuit said the rapid influx of Trump appointees had been jarring, telling the Los Angeles Times, “Ten new people at once sends a shock wave through the system.”
Many of Trump’s appointments have been praised by their peers on the 9th Circuit, but others appear to be rattled. For instance, Judge Daniel Collins has been criticized for his “combative” objections to other judges on the circuit.
“Collins has definitely bulldozed his way around here already in a short time,” one judge from the 9th Circuit said. “Either he doesn’t care or doesn’t realize that he has offended half the court already.”
Democratic-appointed judges still hold a slight majority in the circuit, with 16 appointees compared with 13 Republican appointees, but 9th Circuit Judge Milan Smith Jr., an appointee of George W. Bush, said Trump’s judicial picks were about to take over.
“Trump has effectively flipped the circuit,” Smith said. “You will see a sea change in the 9th Circuit on day-to-day decisions.”
Democratic appointees have controlled the 9th Circuit Court since 1978, when federal law changed to add 10 seats to the court, allowing President Jimmy Carter to select every judge to fill the openings. President Ronald Reagan got only three nominations on the circuit, and appointees from President Bill Clinton and Obama built out the rest of the former liberal stronghold.
Because the court was reliably liberal, it was often the go-to court to challenge Trump’s policies, often forcing a review from the Supreme Court. In the early days of Trump’s presidency, the 9th Circuit struck down his “travel ban” from several Muslim-majority countries and deemed many of his immigration policies unconstitutional. The Supreme Court overturned many of the rulings from the 9th Circuit. Still, delays caused by the lower courts can hinder the president’s policies from moving forward when he wants them to begin.
In total, Trump has appointed 51 circuit court judges to lifetime appointments alongside the two justices he landed on the Supreme Court. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has joked that his motto while leading the GOP majority in the Senate is to “leave no vacancy behind.”