The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Here come the judges

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nominations of University of Pennsylvania law professor Stephanos Bibas and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit and 10th Circuit, respectively. Each vote was approved along party lines, 11-9.

Also yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed for cloture on the Eid and Bibas nominations, as well as on the nominations of Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and 6th Circuit, respectively. The cloture filings mean that up-or-down votes on each of these nominees could occur next week, potentially doubling the number of Trump nominees sitting on the appellate bench. On Monday, the Senate is also scheduled to vote to confirm Trevor McFadden to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

To date, President Trump has made 18 nominations to the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. Of these, four have been confirmed: Amul Thapar (6th), John Bush (6th), Kevin Newsom (11th) and Ralph Erickson (8th). There are 10 additional appellate vacancies and three more appellate judges who have announced their intention to leave active service upon the confirmation of their successor. (The Federal Judicial Center keeps track of vacancies and nominations here.)

One thing that’s notable about the four nominees that the Senate should consider next week is that all four come from states with at least one Democratic senator. In each of these cases, the home-state Democratic senator did not seek to use the “blue slip” prerogative to block the nominee’s consideration, forestalling a potential showdown on the continuation of the blue slip tradition.

But a potential blue slip showdown remains on the horizon. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has refused to return a slip for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, despite his overwhelming qualifications and the support of his more liberal colleagues on the Minnesota high court. Stay tuned.