White men on fed­eral bench: A Trump le­gacy?

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Cather­ine Lucey and Meghan Hoyer

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


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.

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.

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.

Some of Obama’s efforts were thwarted by a GOP-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.

Trump has moved ag­gres­sively to name new judges, get­ting off to a much quicker start than his pre­de­ces­sors. He has nom­i­nated more than twice as many as Obama had at this point in his pres­i­dency. While there have been clashes in the Se­nate over the nom­i­na­tion process, Repub­li­can Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell has sig­naled that he is com­mit­ted to mov­ing ju­di­cial nom­i­nees through.

Many of Trump’s white, male nom­i­nees would re­place white, male judges. But of the Trump nom­i­nees cur­rently pend­ing, more than a quar­ter are white males slated for seats have been held by women or mi­nori­ties.

Of the eight seats va­cant that had non-white judges, only one has a non-white nom­i­nee.

White House spokesman Ho­gan Gi­d­ley says Trump is fo­cused on qual­i­fi­ca­tions and sug­gests that pri­or­i­tiz­ing di­ver­sity would bring pol­i­tics to the bench.

“The pres­i­dent has de­liv­ered on his prom­ise to nom­i­nate the best, most-qual­i­fied judges,” Gi­d­ley said. “While past pres­i­dents may have cho­sen to nom­i­nate ac­tivist judges with a po­lit­i­cal agenda and a his­tory of leg­is­lat­ing from the bench, Pres­i­dent Trump has nom­i­nated out­stand­ing orig­i­nal­ist judges who re­spect the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.”

Trump, who has cited the con­fir­ma­tion of Supreme Court Jus­tice Neil Gor­such as a key achieve­ment, has fo­cused on judges with con­ser­va­tive ré­sumés. His picks have been wel­comed by con­ser­va­tive le­gal groups.

Alberto Gon­za­les, who served as at­tor­ney gen­eral for Ge­orge W. Bush, says that when con­sid­er­ing nom­i­nees “some­times Pres­i­dent Bush would look at the list we gave him and he would say, ‘I want more di­ver­sity, I want more women, I want more mi­nori­ties.’ ”

In his first year, Obama’s con­firmed ju­di­cial nom­i­nees were 31 per­cent white men. Bush had 67 per­cent, Bill Clin­ton 38 per­cent, Ge­orge H.W. Bush 74 per­cent and Rea­gan 93 per­cent.

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