The number 162 is important. After Thursday’s approval of Judge Steven Menashi to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 162 is the number of new Trump-appointed federal judges that have been approved by the United States Senate with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership.
This is an extraordinary number. It includes two Supreme Court Justices, 46 circuit court judges, 112 US District Court judges, and two judges on the United States Court of International Trade.
This means that one out of every four appellate court judges have been nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate. As Politico wrote one year ago, “McConnell’s pace of filling federal court seats has been eye-popping, especially on the powerful appellate circuits.” Importantly, many of these courts are being changed so that Republican appointees outnumber Democratic appointees. (In fact, Menashi’s appointment flipped the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in this way.)
This is 50 percent more circuit court judge confirmations than either Obama or Clinton achieved in their first terms. And Trump’s record is only for the first three years. There is still a year to go.
The number of judges confirmed is made even more impressive by the President’s emphasis on appointing younger judges. As President Trump asserted: “The average age of my newly appointed Circuit Court judges is less than 50. … that is 10 years younger than President Obama’s nominees.”
This means the Trump-McConnell team is transforming the judiciary from liberal to conservative for at least a generation – and possibly even longer. The prime requisite for these new judges as President Trump explained is that they must “truly love our Constitution.”
President Trump recognized McConnell as “a man whose leadership has been instrumental to our success… there is nobody that has done a better job ever than Senator Mitch McConnell…generations from now Americans will know that Mitch McConnell helped save the constitutional rules of law in America.”
McConnell for his part, has made filling the courts his central goal, because, as he said, “the circuit courts, where 99 percent of litigation stops, are full of bright young men and women who believe in the quaint notion that maybe the job of a judge is to follow the law.”
Leader McConnell’s mantra as been “leave no vacancy behind” – and he has proven again and again that he means it.
And there is much more to come. Already there are a projected 108 additional vacancies (both currently vacant and announced future vacancies). This includes six courts of appeals judgeships, 100 district court judges, and two Court of International Trade vacancies.
If these 108 can be completed in the next 12 months, that will be an even more dramatic first term achievement. Leader McConnell’s mantra will suddenly take on even more meaning.