Here Is Something Horrible For Your Christmas Stocking!
Guess what? Once again, everything is shit.
Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed two more Trump nominees -- Patrick Bumatay and Lawrence VanDyke -- to lifetime appointments on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Trump has now appointed 50 appellate court judges and 187 total federal judges in less than three years in office. Obama, by comparison, appointed 55 appellate judges over his eight years in the White House.
Let's learn more about these gaping human wounds!
Like most of Trump's judges, VanDyke and Bumatay are young, conservative, and members of the Federalist Society. VanDyke also fits the Trump mold in two other ways: He is straight and white. Bumatay, on the other hand, is outside of the Trump mold in two ways: He is gay and Filipino.
I have to wonder how these two Trump nominees will get along, serving together on the Ninth Circuit. While Bumatay is openly gay, VanDyke is a known bigot who the ABA thought was unqualified for the bench, in part because a majority of the members of its Federal Judiciary Committee didn't think he could be fair to LGBTQ litigants.
Remember watching the gay-hatin' bigot cry? Yeah, that was Lawrence VanDyke. And he now has a lifetime appointment to a federal appellate court.
Normally, presidents ask senators for help choosing judges from their state, but in the last three years, that has become just another convention that Trump refuses to follow. Both Bumatay and VanDyke were opposed by the senators from their states -- Nevada Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto for VanDyke and California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris for Bumatay.
Bumatay is a former federal prosecutor who helped Trump kidnap children from families at the border. VanDyke made a career out of using the courts to fight against human rights, especially for women, LGBTQ people, and people of color. He has fought against marriage equality, hate crime and nondiscrimination laws, the rights of Native Americans, and abortion rights. He tried to take DACA status away from Dreamers. VanDyke has also spent a fair bit of time acting as a typical Republican shill, fighting against the environment and blue collar workers, and fighting for guns, hate groups, and the rights of corporate polluters.
Crazy Carrie Severino of the far right "Judicial Crisis Network" celebrated both confirmations -- which is just about all I need to know to understand that these guys are VERY BAD for the country.
The Ninth Circuit is one of the most important appellate courts in the country. It covers more people than any other circuit court in the country. With jurisdiction over cases from California, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, its rulings affect some 64.3 million people -- nearly 20% of the US population. Additionally, the states that the Ninth Circuit covers are some of the most progressive states in the country and frequently enact cutting edge laws that are challenged by conservatives in court.
The Ninth Circuit was once considered a liberal haven, due in large part to a number of appointments President Jimmy Carter made to the court. After having some of his bullshit policies blocked by the court, Trump repeatedly attacked the judges of the Ninth Circuit. When conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts tried to defend the federal judiciary from some particularly nasty fuckery from the president, Trump did what he does and took to Twitter to attack both Roberts and the judges of the Ninth Circuit.
At the beginning of Trump's presidency, Ninth Circuit judges appointed by Democratic presidents had an 11-seat majority on the court. Now, that number is three.
Trump has appointed 10 of the Ninth Circuit's 30 circuit judges. Another four Ninth Circuit judges were appointed by George W. Bush. That means it's possible, or even likely, that Trump could end up flipping this notoriously liberal court to majority-conservative. Even if Democrats were to take the Senate in 2020 (and that's far from a given, considering the difficult map Democrats face for next year's Senate elections), Trump and Mitch McConnell still have another full year to pack the judiciary with extremists and sycophants.
Conservatives already dominate seven of our 13 circuit courts of appeal. Trump himself already flipped the Second, Third, and 11th Circuits.
All of this is bad, very bad.
For the vast majority of cases, circuit courts are the end of the road. In almost all cases, the Supreme Court gets to decide whether or not it wants to hear the case -- and it only hears around 100 to 150 cases of the 7,000+ cases it's asked to hear each year. In all of those cases that SCOTUS declines to hear, the opinion of the circuit court stands, and also becomes controlling precedent for all of the states within the circuit's jurisdiction.
Even the best possible outcome in the 2020 election will not undo the damage that Trump has already done to our federal judiciary. Unless Democrats win both the presidency and the Senate in 2020 AND come up with some creative solutions, judges appointed by Trump are likely to destroy legal precedent and lives for decades to come.
Happy holidays! Go read something nice now. We just hate giving you soul poison for Christmas.