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President Donald Trump’s appointment of federal judges at a record pace may endear him to conservatives, but that alone won’t be enough to push the judiciary to the right.

A big obstacle is Barack Obama’s legacy of filling the courts with his own lifetime appointees. When Obama took office in 2009, Democratic appointees made up the majority of active-status judges on just one of the nation’s 12 regional appeals courts — a step below the Supreme Court. Even if Trump fills all the currently vacant seats on the appeals courts, judges appointed by Republicans still won’t hold a majority on eight of them.

That gives the Democratic appointees more sway when those courts exercise their rarely used but important power to convene all of their judges — in so-called en banc panels of as many as 16 jurists — to hear cases of exceptional public interest. The losing side can always seek Supreme Court review, but en banc rulings are often the final word on major matters of civil and criminal justice.

Trump Faces Hurdles on Path to Reshape Judiciary in GOP Image

President Donald Trump’s appointment of federal judges at a record pace may endear him to conservatives, but that alone won’t be enough to push the judiciary to the right.


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