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A Trumpified Federal Judiciary

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The consolidation of Republican control of the Supreme Court is really, really bad. It’s worth noting that Trump packing the circuit courts with young neoconfederate cranks is also really bad:

Kenneth Lee was confirmed on Wednesday, along a party-line vote, to the Ninth Circuit. The vote came despite the fact that neither of his home state senators returned a blue slip on his nomination, making him the fifth circuit court judge confirmed this year with zero blue slip approval. It’s safe to say there is no “blue slip” process anymore for circuit court judges, an extraordinary shift that has accelerated the radicalization of the federal bench. Before this year, no circuit court judge had been elevated without the approval of at least one home state senator. Respecting the veto of home state senators is part of the reason President Barack Obama left office with so many judicial vacancies, many of which have been subsequently filled by Trump with the most radical contenders he could plausibly push through.

Take Lee, just for instance. Among his college essays on the human condition, Lee had opined that “cries of racism often stem from isolated incidents or from unreliable studies based on statistical chicanery” and that “charges of sexism often amount to nothing but irrelevant pouting.” He has also written that “a scientific explanation exists for the higher incidence of AIDS in the gay community. Homosexuals are more promiscuous than heterosexuals, and thus their risk factor increases exponentially.” Oh, also, he failed to turn over these racist and sexist and homophobic writings to the Senate initially—they were only uncovered in the middle of his confirmation process. And it’s almost an afterthought to note that during his confirmation hearing Lee refused to say whether he agreed with the precedent set by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954—decided 65 years ago on Friday. He’s after all just one of 27 Trump judicial nominees who have declined to endorse the landmark ruling declaring school segregation unconstitutional, a commitment Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh had no trouble making at their own hearings.

The judiciary—the courts that decide everything from our civil rights, to our voting rights, to whether a president can be placed above the law—will soon be full of Lees.

Not only has Trump broken records in filling judicial vacancies, but he is also on track to fill every vacancy left on the federal circuit courts. With rare exceptions—for the overt racist vote suppressors and self-declared homophobes—no judicial nominee is too extreme or unqualified for Senate Republicans. This week, Sen. Mitt Romney rocked the Senate by voting against a district court nominee who in 2011 called President Barack Obama an “un-American imposter.” But never fear, that guy was then confirmed anyhow. Another nominee was confirmed despite the fact that she too withheld materials from the committeeand believes, without any medical proof, that abortions cause cancer. Republicans in the Senate shrugged.

Admittedly, nobody could have seen Republicans immediately ignoring the blue slip norm Democrats adhered to except everybody except Pat Leahy.

It’s also worth noting that in his judicial appointments, Trump is an utterly orthodox Republican. And a Republican judiciary is critical to Republicans remaining electorally competitive no matter how unpopular the agenda they’re offering is.

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