The news of the day has been college admissions. A massive college admissions cheating scandal has caught celebrities like Felicity Huffman red-handed in using wealth to influence the admissions process. Which is hardly new. What is new, however, is the political alignment of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
The legacy of the Trump presidency will be felt for at least a generation thanks to his aggressive packing of the Judiciary with hardline right-wing judges. This aggressive court-packing has not always lead to the most qualified judges, and his latest is hardly an exception.
Paul Matey’s own senators objected to his appointment.
“President Trump’s nominees are now being confirmed at record speed despite objections from home-state senators,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey). “There never was meaningful consultation between the White House and [Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey)], or me, to identify a highly qualified consensus nominee.”
Before his appointment to the Third Circuit, Matey served as deputy chief counsel of former Governor Chris Christie (R-New Jersey), who defended the governor during the “bridgegate” scandal where Christie was seen as closing a major transit point for political reasons, was the second person appointed to a judgeship despite both his home-state Senators opposing his appointment since at least 1979.
The only other judge? Eric Miller, a Trump appointee to the Ninth Circuit.
“Republicans claim to be the party of conservatism. Yet there’s nothing conservative about sweeping aside century-old norms for political gain,” Menendez said on the Senate floor. “The people of New Jersey have no appetite for a judge who served in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.”
But in some ways Matey’s appointment is more groundbreaking, as with his appointment the control of the Third Circuit shirts. The court, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, is the first of the thirteen appellate circuits to flip ideological control during the Trump administration.
The idea that courts are becoming more loyal to President Trump was specifically cited in his description of his controversial national emergency over migration he declared in February. As he noted, Trump has also dramatically shifted the ideology of the Supreme Court by appointing hardliner Justice Brett Kavanaugh to replace moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Trump still has one more vacancy to fill in the Third Circuit.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.