Trump Has Quietly Implemented a Far-Right Takeover of the Courts That Will Last Generations

Imperiling progressive change “for as long as we live,” 1 in 5 federal judges is now a Trump appointee.

Jake JohnsonDecember 6, 2019

While impeachment dominates the news, the GOP is pushing through its right-wing judicial agenda. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell rammed through eight of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s life­time judi­cial picks in just three days this week, accel­er­at­ing the far-right court takeover that Vox’s David Roberts warned is absolute­ly going to ham­string efforts to make the U.S. into a respon­si­ble, civ­i­lized coun­try, for as long as we live.”

Progressive advocacy groups and legal experts have warned that these right-wing judges will have the power to shape U.S. law on climate, reproductive rights, and other major areas for decades to come.

The lat­est slew of con­fir­ma­tions, accord­ing toBloombergs Sahil Kapur, means that Trump and his Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety allies have now hand-picked about one in every five Amer­i­can fed­er­al judges,” or 170 judges total.

Near­ly all are in their 40s or 50s with life­time appoint­ments and posi­tioned to shape Amer­i­can law for gen­er­a­tions,” Kapur not­ed on Twit­ter. It gets a tiny frac­tion of atten­tion com­pared to oth­er stuff he does but this is the Trump lega­cy that’ll echo for gen­er­a­tions after he’s gone.”

The Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate con­firmed one life­time judi­cial nom­i­nee Tues­day, five Wednes­day, and two Thurs­day. The rapid con­fir­ma­tion of Trump nom­i­nees was made pos­si­ble by McConnel­l’s deci­sion ear­li­er this year to invoke the so-called nuclear option,” which slashed debate time on judi­cial nom­i­nees from 30 hours to just two.

We’re appalled,” the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence on Civ­il and Human Rights tweet­ed Thurs­day in response to the lat­est confirmations.

Pro­gres­sive advo­ca­cy groups and legal experts have warned that these right-wing judges will have the pow­er to shape U.S. law on cli­mate, repro­duc­tive rights, and oth­er major areas for decades to come. At a ral­ly in Ken­tucky last month, McConnell bragged that he and Trump are chang­ing the fed­er­al courts forever.”

In addi­tion to being over­whelm­ing­ly young and far-right, a num­ber of Trump’s judi­cial appoint­ments have also received a not qual­i­fied” rat­ing from the Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion. One such judge, Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety mem­ber Sarah Pit­lyk, was con­demned as par­tic­u­lar­ly hor­ri­fy­ing by rights groups fol­low­ing her con­fir­ma­tion Wednesday.

Sarah Pit­lyk’s con­fir­ma­tion to the dis­trict court in Mis­souri is a dream come true for the anti-choice move­ment and a pro­found dan­ger to women and fam­i­lies in the state,” Ilyse Hogue, pres­i­dent of NAR­AL Pro-Choice Amer­i­ca, said in a state­ment. Putting judges like Pit­lyk on the bench who will spend their life­time appoint­ments work­ing to roll back repro­duc­tive free­dom is fur­ther proof that Don­ald Trump is pay­ing back his debts and then some to the anti-choice move­ment that got him elected.”

In the face of the ongo­ing right-wing takeover of the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry, advo­ca­cy groups are pres­sur­ing2020 Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to explain how they would work to reform the nation’s court sys­tem in order to enact pro­gres­sive pol­i­cy changes.

With­out a mean­ing­ful plan for court reform any pres­i­den­tial attempts to make need­ed change will sim­ply by blocked by the courts,” said Emma Janger, co-direc­tor of the Peo­ple’s Par­i­ty Project, a nation­wide net­work of pro­gres­sive attor­neys and law students.

As Com­mon Dreamsreport­ed in Octo­ber, advo­ca­cy group Demand Jus­tice launched a cam­paign urg­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial con­tenders to empha­size the impor­tance of the fed­er­al courts and tell the pub­lic how they plan to break the right’s stran­gle­hold on the judiciary.

The GOP has hijacked our nation’s courts,” said Demand Jus­tice, and vot­ers need to hear plans to fight back.”

This sto­ry was first post­ed atCom­mon Dreams.

Jake John­son is a staff writer for Com­mon Dreams. Fol­low him on Twit­ter: @johnsonjakep
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