The change, much feared by Republicans, is not necessarily shocking. But the transformation, in just 5 1/2 years, said University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur D. Hellman, an authority on the federal circuit courts, marks “a huge shift in a very short period of time.”
And it means that Democratic appointed judges “have the ability to control every important case if they wish to” in those nine circuits, he said.
The reason that’s important is because those courts are often the courts of last resort, he said, since the Supreme Court rules only in about 75 cases a year and has not weighed in many areas, including issues of import to business or the First Amendment rights of student internet expression. The appeals courts, in contrast, issue thousands of opinions a year.
Until the high court speaks, “the law that counts is the law of the circuit,” he said.