The most indelible legacy of the Trump presidency will be his impact on the nation’s courts. While his reshaping of the Supreme Court has been widely discussed, his reshaping of the judicial branch has been more rapid than any president in modern history.
After a bitter fight over Justice Brett Kavanaugh — the least popular candidate to be confirmed to the Court in decades — the Senate agreed to approve a slate of conservative judges to lower courts in an attempt to put the issue behind them and hit the campaign trail for the Midterms.
Despite being in recess, the Senate Judiciary Committee convened to advance another slate of conservative judges toward confirmation, on the orders of chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Last week, Senate Dems agreed to fast-track 15 Trump judges in exchange for recessing for the rest of October.
But it turns out the Senate GOP is moving forward with even more Trump judges later this month anyway.
Great negotiating, @SenateDems! https://t.co/jUziFgBuFR
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) October 15, 2018
“If there was ever any hope that after the Kavanaugh experience we could return to bipartisanship on the Senate Judiciary Committee, it was shaken this morning,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) told the New York Times.
Among this slate of judicial appointments is Allison Rushing, 36, who even Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) pressed about her inexperience, according to the Times. She’s only 11 years out of law school, has never been a judge and would be the youngest person appointed to an appellate court in more than 15 years.
Despite this inexperience, Rushing is poised to be confirmed in the lame duck session of the Senate after the November election, securing her place on the Fourth Circuit even if the Democrats take control of the chamber, because confirmation of President Trump’s appointments to the bench is a “top priority” for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).
And his appointments haven’t always been the most qualified. Last December, one went viral for his lack of basic judicial knowledge, and another defended the Ku Klux Klan. Ultimately, both of those nominees were withdrawn.
This latest crop may not be that much more qualified.
When asked about the practice of nationwide injunctions employed by the District Courts and their legal justification, District Court nominee Thomas Barber was stumped.
“I took several courses in law school in federal courts. I never learned about that. It was never taught. So it seems rather new,” he said.
Famously, nationwide injunctions were used in the judicial battle over President Trump’s travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries. If confirmed, Barber would be able to issue these injunctions, so he should perhaps read a little about them before then.
But Barber, Rushing and others will be voted on, and likely confirmed by, a lame duck session in November to serve their lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary, regardless of the deal Grassley made with Democrats, or even their knowledge of what powers they’d be wielding on the bench.
“I would like to have the future mending things,” Grassley said.
His understanding of mending appears to match Barber’s understanding of a District Court’s power.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.