Since taking office nearly two and a half years ago, Trump has won confirmation of two Supreme Court justices, 43 appeals court judges and 99 district court judges ― an extraordinary feat in which he has vastly outpaced his most recent predecessors.
The judges Trump has installed to lifetime positions on the federal bench are younger and more conservative than those appointed by past GOP administrations, and many could serve for decades to come.
But they are also generally a less diverse bunch. Eighty-six percent of Trump’s picks confirmed for appeals courts during his first two and a half years in office were white. Although he did appoint some Asian American judges to appellate courts, he included no African American or Hispanic judges.
By comparison, 65% of President Barack Obama’s confirmed appeals court judges were white.
Trump’s district judges are also less diverse. Around 90% of his confirmed district court judges in his first two years in office were white, compared to just 63% of Obama’s confirmed district court judges.
In terms of gender, 56% of Obama’s confirmed appeals court judges and 59% of his confirmed district court judges were male, per a Congressional Research Service analysis from March. Trump’s confirmed appeals court judges were 80% male and his confirmed district court judges were 74% male.
Trump still has time to nominate more diverse candidates to the federal bench ― thanks to Republicans, who blew up the Senate rules earlier this year to make it a lot easier to confirm district court judges. But his opportunities on circuit courts are narrowing. Currently, there are only four vacancies on the nation’s appeals courts and 106 openings on its district courts.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former Texas Supreme Court judge, hailed the recent confirmation of several African American district judges in his state. (Last week, the Senate confirmed the first-ever African American judge in the Western District of Texas).
But the senator struggled to explain why the Trump administration had failed to nominate more diverse candidates at the highest levels of the judiciary.
“The president gets to nominate, we don’t get to pick them, we just get to vote up and down on them, by and large,” Cornyn told HuffPost last month. “I don’t really have an answer for you why there hasn’t been more diversity in the nominations.”
He added it would be “very helpful” if the White House did so because “people need to have confidence in the justice system and I think giving everybody a fair shot to serve is important.”
It’s true that the White House is in charge of nominating people to the federal judiciary, but it often does so in consultation with senators themselves. More often than not, however, Trump’s judges are members of the Federalist Society, a powerful Washington-based organization of conservative lawyers that has been feeding the White House the names of young, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-voting rights attorneys to confirm to judgeships.
And not every Republican is concerned by the lack of diversity among Trump’s judicial nominees.
“I don’t find it problematic,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said recently when asked about the matter. “I presume they’re presenting people whose philosophy and judicial demeanor they know and can trust.”
“I really don’t care what color they are. If there’s more diversity in addition to those qualifications, I think that’s a bonus,” he added.
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