On July 13, 2017, President Donald Trump announced the nomination of 11 new judicial appointments to federal courts throughout 5 states—Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The nominees include a shareholder in Ogletree Deakins’ Raleigh, North Carolina office, Thomas A. Farr. The judicial appointments should be confirmed quickly by simple majority vote.
During his tenure, President Obama filled 329 vacancies on Article III courts and 18 on Article I courts. Currently, there are still a total of 129 vacancies remaining.
The appointment of federal judges is one of the most significant powers exercised by a president. During the Obama administration, former Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pushed through the so-called “nuclear option,” which eliminated the use of the filibuster for slowing down or possibly defeating the administration’s nominees to judicial and federal agency seats. The result was dramatic. By the end of President Obama’s term, only 4 of the 12 federal circuit courts of appeals still had a majority of judges appointed by a Republican president. That narrows considerably the number of federal circuits considered “safe” by business community appellants.
Since the circuit courts are responsible for reviewing federal regulations issued by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor and administrative decisions by independent federal agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board, the ability to pack the courts by simple majority vote in the Senate is a powerful weapon. That same ability to deny filibusters against Supreme Court nominations was extended this year by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) through the “nuclear option” by which Justice Neil Gorsuch was quickly confirmed to restore a 5–4 balance on the Supreme Court.
Restoring balance to the lower federal courts responsible for reviewing federal regulations and administrative decisions is the reason why the judicial appointments process is critical for labor and employment policy. President Trump has an historic opportunity to influence the business climate by nominating conservative judges to the federal circuit courts for many years beyond his tenure.