Path Clear for Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee
Donald Trump’s election means that Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat will now be filled by the Republican Party. Speculation is already rampant over who Trump will name to the vacancy on the high court.
And betting is strong that he will turn to one of the two prospects he cited in a televised debate with other Republican candidates on the evening Justice Scalia died in February. The two were U.S. Court of Appeals Judges William Pryor, former state attorney general of Alabama, and Diane Sykes, former Wisconsin state Supreme Court judge and protégé of former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson, a vigorous Trump campaigner.
Trump released a list of 21 candidates he would consider for the Supreme Court. Along with Pryor and Sikes, the list included Sen. Mike Lee, R.-Utah, onetime law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito, and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Judge Robert Young Jr., a champion of originalism, the principle of interpreting the Constitution as originally drafted.
On the day that Garland’s nomination expires, 49 other Obama appointments to the federal bench will also expire: 27 awaiting hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee (4 to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 23 to the U.S. District Courts) and 22 on the Senate floor awaiting a vote (3 to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 17 to the U.S. District Court, and two the Court of International Trade).
Rarely mentioned but just as significant is the age factor on the federal bench. According to Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, “nearly half the slots on the federal bench are either vacant or held by judges who are old enough to take senior status next year.”
“Senior Status” refers to an opportunity judges have to opt for semi-retirement after reaching age 65 and having served on the federal bench for at least 15 years. This status permits a judge to receive full salary but have the option of taking a reduced caseload.
The total number of judges appointed by the President, counting the nine justices of the Supreme Court are 877 judges on the federal bench: 179 on the Court of Appeals, nine on the Court of International Trade, and 677 for the district courts.