Trump choos­ing white men as judges, high­est rate in decades


WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is nom­i­nat­ing white men to Amer­ica’s fed­eral courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years, threat­en­ing to re­verse a slow trans­for­ma­tion to­ward a ju­di­ciary that re­flects the na­tion’s di­ver­sity.

So far, 91 per­cent of Trump’s nom­i­nees are white, and 81 per­cent are male, an As­so­ci­ated Press anal­y­sis has found. Three of ev­ery four are white men, with few African-amer­i­cans and His­pan­ics in the mix. The last pres­i­dent to nom­i­nate a sim­i­larly ho­moge­nous group was Ge­orge H.W. Bush.

The shift could prove to be one of Trump’s most en­dur­ing lega­cies. These are life­time ap­point­ments, and Trump has in­her­ited both an un­usu­ally high num­ber of va­can­cies and an aging pop­u­la­tion of judges. That puts him in po­si­tion to sig­nif­i­cantly re­shape the courts that de­cide thou­sands of civil rights, en­vi­ron­men­tal, crim­i­nal jus­tice and other dis­putes across the coun­try. The White House has been up­front about its plans to quickly fill the seats with con­ser­va­tives, and has made clear that ju­di­cial phi­los­o­phy tops any con­cerns about shrink­ing racial or gen­der di­ver­sity.

Trump is any­thing but shy about his plans, call­ing his im­print on the courts an “un­told story” of his pres­i­dency.

“No­body wants to talk about it,” he says. “But when you think of it ... that has con­se­quences 40 years out.” He pre­dicted at a re­cent Cabi­net meet­ing, “A big per­cent­age of the court will be changed by this ad­min­is­tra­tion over a very short pe­riod of time.”

Ad­vo­cates for putting more women and racial mi­nori­ties on the bench ar­gue that courts that more closely re­flect the de­mo­graph­ics of the pop­u­la­tion en­sure a broader range of view­points and in­spire greater con­fi­dence in ju­di­cial rul­ings.

One court that has be­come a fo­cus in the de­bate is the East­ern District of North Carolina, a re­gion that, de­spite its size­able black pop­u­la­tion, has never had a black judge. A seat on that court has been open for more than a decade. Ge­orge W. Bush named a white man, and Barack Obama at dif­fer­ent points nom­i­nated two black women, but none of those nom­i­nees ever came to a vote in the Se­nate.

Trump has renom­i­nated Bush’s orig­i­nal choice: Thomas Farr, a pri­vate at­tor­ney whose work de­fend­ing North Carolina’s re­dis­trict­ing maps and a voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion law has raised con­cerns among civil rights ad­vo­cates.

Kyle Barry, se­nior pol­icy coun­sel for the

NAACP Le­gal De­fense and Ed­u­ca­tional Fund, said that when di­ver­sity is lack­ing, “there’s a clear per­cep­tion where the courts are not a place peo­ple can go and vin­di­cate their civil rights.”

In re­cent decades, Democrats have con­sis­tently named more racial mi­nori­ties and women on the courts. But even com­pared to his Repub­li­can pre­de­ces­sors, Trump’s nom­i­nees stand out. So far, he has nom­i­nated the high­est per­cent­age of white judges in his first year since Ron­ald Rea­gan. If he con­tin­ues on his trend through his first term, he will be the first Repub­li­can since Her­bert Hoover to name fewer women and mi­nori­ties to the court than his GOP pre­de­ces­sor.

The AP re­viewed 58 nom­i­nees to life­time po­si­tions on ap­pel­late and

district courts, as well as the Supreme Court, by the end of Oc­to­ber. Fifty-three are white, three are Asian-amer­i­can, one is His­panic and one is African-amer­i­can. There are 47 men and 11 women. Thir­teen have won Se­nate ap­proval.

The num­bers stand in marked con­trast to those of Obama, who made di­ver­si­fy­ing the fed­eral bench a pri­or­ity. White men rep­re­sented just 37 per­cent of judges con­firmed dur­ing Obama’s two terms; nearly 42 per­cent of his judges were women.

Some of Obama’s efforts were thwarted by a Repub­li­can-led Se­nate that blocked all of his nom­i­na­tions he made in the fi­nal year of his pres­i­dency, hand­ing Trump a back­log of more than 100 open seats and sig­nif­i­cant sway over the fu­ture of the court.


In this Nov. 1 photo, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks dur­ing a cabi­net meet­ing at the White House in Wash­ing­ton.

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