As a welcome companion to Steven Calabresi’s silly ranting about how — horrors! — Barack Obama may completely transform the federal courts (if a whole bunch of relatively young judges retire en masse, of course, Charlie Savage brings some data about the extent to which Bush has transformed the federal courts. Democrats control exactly…one of the 13 federal circuit courts (with 2 being evenly split), and overall Republican appointees represent a whopping 62% of the federal circuit courts. Moreover, these numbers probably understate the reactionary tilt of the federal courts; recent Republican presidents have tended to be much more committed to appointing strong conservatives than Democratic presidents have been to appointing strong liberals.
In his first term, Obama will just be attempting to restore balance to the courts. And what they would look like after a couple more Republican terms is something I don’t even want to contemplate. And I hope that Obama will look beyond the cautious moderates he seems attracted to for some appointments.