“The shift could prove to be one of Trump’s most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.”
Courts were a large issue during the 2016 election.
Former president Barack Obama considers diversifying the courts to be among his greatest legacies. His nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court made her the first Hispanic justice on the country's highest bench. And in terms of federal benches as a whole, the Obama administration nominated a higher percentage of people of color to federal judgeships than any other president.
Just months before the 2016 election, Obama spoke to University of Chicago law students about his commitment to diversity on the bench”
“I am — not to brag — but I have transformed the federal courts from a diversity standpoint with a record that's been unmatched.We've got more African Americans on the circuit courts than we ever [had] before. We've got — I've appointed more African American women to the federal courts than any other president before. I've appointed more Latinos than any president before. I've appointed more Native Americans, more Asian Americans, more LGBT judges than ever before.But at no point did I say, oh, you know what, I need a black lesbian from Skokie in that slot. Can you find me one? I mean, that's just not how I've approached it. It turns out that if the process is fair and you are saying that it's important that our courts are reflective of a changing society, you’ll end up with a really good cross-section of people who are excellent. And that's who we've been able to appoint.”
Those in the Obama administration have said that the president wanted the benches to look like America. But Trump and other conservatives have regularly criticized Obama for nominating “activist judges” more concerned with political ideology than reflecting the ethnic and gender diversity of the country.
Activism isn't exclusive to liberalism. But Trump critics say that the president isn't interested in keeping political activism out of the courts. He simply wants judges who reflect the politics of some of his most loyal supporters.
During the campaign, Trump was praised by conservatives for taking the unusual step of releasing a list of judges he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court if he was elected president. Most of the names were suggested by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank. And the move was viewed as an effort to reassure conservatives that the former Hillary Clinton donor would carry out their judicial agenda in office.
Trump went on to win 80 percent of white evangelical voters, with one of the main reasons being his promise to nominate judges that support the politics of one of his most loyal demographic groups, according to the New York Times.
“He wooed them and convinced them that he would appoint Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia, the conservative who died in February. To these pragmatic players, the election boiled down to only two issues, both that could be solved with Supreme Court appointments: stopping abortion and ensuring legal protections for religious conservatives who object to same-sex marriage.”
Despite low approval ratings — only 37 percent of adults approve of Trump's job performance, the overwhelming majority of white evangelical voters — 73 percent — view his job performance favorably, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.
And appreciating his judicial appointments is one of those reasons.
But Americans looking for more ethnic and gender diversity in Trump's nominees might want to focus on the group the president has tasked with choosing the nominees.
“We’re going to have great judges, conservative, all picked by the Federalist Society,” Trump told former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon while on the campaign trail.
The group will gather in Washington this week for the 2017 National Lawyers Convention. Here's a list of the people chosen to speak at the event.