President Donald Trump’s influence on the federal judiciary goes further than just filling one seat on the Supreme Court. The president needs to fill 117 vacancies on various federal courts.
On Jan. 31, Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. While this was certainly an important seat to fill, more than 13 percent of all lifetime judiciary positions remain vacant.
The U.S. Court of Appeals currently has 18 vacancies, the District courts have 91, the Court of International Trade has 2 vacant seats, and the Court of Federal Claims has 6. Many of these picks would have the potential to change the balance of several U.S. courts.
The Senate has not yet held a vote to confirm Gorsuch.
Right now, less than half of the judges on the Circuit Courts of Appeals and only about 35 percent of judges on District courts were appointed by a Republican president.
While a judge’s ideology usually does not impact decisions in most District court cases, Circuit Court judges have a lot more room to apply their own opinions in their rulings — as seen with the recent 9th district ruling against Trump’s temporary immigration ban.
At the start of their presidencies, President Ronald Reagan was charged with filling 34 seats, George H.W. Bush filled 37 seats, George W. Bush had 84, and there were 54 vacancies when Obama entered office.
The president has a rare opportunity to fill a number of vacant seats not seen since President Bill Clinton, who had 111 to fill, greatly impacting the judicial landscape for years to come.