Trump Is in the Process of Dismantling One of the Left's Strongholds: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals


CORRECTION, April 5, 2019: As originally published, this article claimed that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had recently overseen a rules change that makes it easier to replace judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the rules change in question specifically excluded federal appeals judges. We have therefore deleted that claim from the article.

We apologize for any confusion we may have caused.

For whatever qualms some conservatives may have about President Donald Trump’s style of governance, one area where there is near-unanimous agreement on the right is his high level of success in reshaping our nation’s judiciary branch with numerous appointments of conservative-leaning judges that are beholden to the Constitution.

The most obvious symbol of that success were the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh that shifted the balance of the high court.

But the real mark of Trump’s success has occurred at the appellate, circuit and district levels of the judiciary, as dozens of vacancies across the country have been filled — with the studious assistance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — by constitutionalist jurists that eschew the sort of judicial activism embraced by the left.

Arguably the biggest goal in the concerted effort to reshape the judiciary in a more conservative composition is the predominately liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers nine western states and is based in San Francisco, California.

According to a report from Fox News, President Trump has nearly done away with that liberal majority on the vastly important appeals court.

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For the first time in more than three decades, the 9th Circuit is about to be nearly evenly split between judges appointed by Democrat and Republican presidents.

That is huge, given the sheer volume of cases that originate in the nine western states under that court, not to mention the fact that the left has relied on their dominance of that court to obtain rulings from liberal judges in favor of their progressive policies.

Once the two most recent Trump appointees to the 9th Circuit are confirmed by the Senate and any further vacancies on that court are filled, it is expected that 13 of the 29 judges will have been placed there by a Republican president.

That is a far cry from just one year ago, when 16 of the 29 judges were appointed by Democrats while a mere six of the judges had been appointed by a Republican.

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As noted, Democrats and liberals have long relied on their dominance in the 9th Circuit to ensure that the laws they pass are upheld by the courts. In cases where the left doesn’t like the law in question, they have similarly relied on activist liberal judges to essentially rewrite the laws via judicial rulings to be more to their liking.

That has certainly been the case over the past two years under President Trump, as liberals have even openly bragged about purposely filing their many challenges against the administration in states under the 9th Circuit’s purview, confident that those challenges will be heard and ruled on favorably by the majority of liberal judges.

Of course, not every decision issued by that court stands, as some are appealed to the Supreme Court, which has overruled the 9th Circuit 79 percent of the time that it has reviewed one of the court’s rulings.

To be sure, the battle over the ideological makeup of the courts is far from over, particularly in the 9th Circuit, but Trump’s efforts at nominating solid judges to that court have certainly helped even the odds. His efforts have also reduced the chances for activist judges — whether on 3-judge panels or 11-member “en banc” hearings — to issue one-sided rulings or rewrite laws in favor of leftists.

With a more equal balance among the entirety of the court membership, chances have improved dramatically for the standard randomly-picked 3-judge panels or 11-member en banc hearings to have a conservative majority now, rather than be completely liberal-leaning, as has happened in the past.

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Unfortunately for the left, they really have nowhere else to turn now for judicial activism on their behalf in light of the balance that has been brought to the 9th Circuit by Trump. Only two other circuits, the 2nd and 11th Circuit Courts of Appeal, have Democratic majorities now — +5 and +2, respectively — meaning the left is unlikely to fare any better there than they otherwise would in the 9th Circuit.

President Trump may be boorish and unpresidential at times, and it is likely that history will be unkind to him in certain respects, something even many of his most ardent supporters will begrudgingly admit, even if they happen to actually like and appreciate those qualities in some instances.

However, any objective review of Trump’s presidential legacy will have to admit the incredibly consequential nature of his successful efforts at reforming the judiciary to better defend the Constitution and apply the principles of that foundational document to the cases they oversee.

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Ben Marquis is a writer who identifies as a constitutional conservative/libertarian. He has written about current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. His focus is on protecting the First and Second Amendments.
Ben Marquis has written on current events and politics for The Western Journal since 2014. He reads voraciously and writes about the news of the day from a conservative-libertarian perspective. He is an advocate for a more constitutional government and a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, which protects the rest of our natural rights. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the love of his life as well as four dogs and four cats.
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