April 14, 2005

GOP-Appointed Judges Already Control 10 of 13 Appeals Courts

Conservatives near lock on U.S. courts

As Democrats and Republicans in Washington prepare for an expected showdown over the use of filibusters to stall judicial nominees, President Bush is already well on his way to recasting the nation's federal appeals courts in a more conservative mold.

Republican appointees now constitute a majority of judges on 10 of the nation's 13 federal appeals courts. As few as three more lifetime appointments on key courts would tip the balance in favor of GOP appointees on all but one appeals court — the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
How many of President Bush appeals court nominees have been confirmed?

Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush’s 52 appeals court nominees through filibuster threats, while allowing Republicans to confirm 34 others. Bush has had 205 district and appellate court judges confirmed while in the White House.
Even if the Democrats continue to filibuster extreme, partisan conservative judges, President Bush already have damage the courts for years.

Even if Republicans refrain from a nuclear option in these proceedings, legal analysts say the Bush administration is already accomplishing a significant shift within the federal judiciary. By winning a second term, he is well positioned to leave a presidential legacy that could take Democrats a decade or more to reverse. [...]

Although national attention is usually centered on the U.S. Supreme Court when it attempts to resolve heated social issues, such disputes are fought out at the district and appeals court levels first. The regional appeals courts decide more than 63,000 cases each year, while the Supreme Court agrees to hear only 80 to 90 cases per term.

"As the Supreme Court's docket dwindles, the regional circuit courts become even more the Supreme Courts for their regions," says Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond School of Law.
The battle over appeal courts nominees is just as important as the battle over the next Supreme Court nominee. The Democrats in the Senate must continue to filibuster extreme, partisan conservative judges. America can not afford conservative majorities on all of the 13 appeals courts.


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