Supreme Court

Mitch McConnell Thinks His Greatest Achievement Is the Judges His Senate Confirmed

The Senate confirmed a record number of federal appellate court nominees in 2017.

|

Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently told Bloomberg Politics what he considered the greatest accomplishment of his political career. "For me personally," McConnell said, "it would be Neil Gorsuch and the changes we're making in the circuit courts."

McConnell has certainly been busy on that front. In 2017 the Republican-controlled Senate approved one Supreme Court nominee and 12 appellate court nominees. The latter figure set a new record for appellate court confirmations in the first year of a presidency. And last week the total rose to 13 with the confirmation of David Stras to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Gorsuch's appointment to the Supreme Court has understandably received the most attention of the lot. That's due in no small part to the fact that the vacancy Gorsuch filled first arose during the presidency of Barack Obama, who tried to fill it with D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland. But McConnell thwarted Obama, using procedural tactics in the Senate to keep the seat open through the 2016 election. That gave Trump the opportunity.

Supreme Court nominations are important. But the importance of federal appellate court nominations should not be underestimated. Keep in mind that the Supreme Court decides only 75 cases or so each term. The federal appellate courts, by contrast, decide tens of thousands of cases, and many of those rulings are never reviewed by SCOTUS. The federal appellate bench is often the court of last resort.

What do we know about Trump's 13 appellate court appointments? They can all be described as "conservative," and they typically profess themselves to be proponents of constitutional originalism. But on significant questions of constitutional law, some of them strongly disagree with each other. What is more, some of them strongly disagree with the stated positions of the Trump administration. For instance, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a big proponent of civil asset forfeiture. Recently confirmed 5th Circuit Judge Don Willett, by contrast, has suggested that civil asset forfeiture is unconstitutional.

There are two interrelated stories to follow here. One is that McConnell and the Trump administration are working overtime to get a record number of Republican-nominated judges confirmed to the federal bench. The other, more interesting story is that these new judges come from various parts of the broader conservative legal movement, including its libertarian wing. They do not always march in intellectual lockstep with each other, or with the White House.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

18 responses to “Mitch McConnell Thinks His Greatest Achievement Is the Judges His Senate Confirmed

  1. He’s probably correct here, though the GOP’s strategy post-Scalia’s death (RIP) was, I thought at the time, decidedly risky.

  2. I think that’s the first picture I’ve ever seen of Trump where he looks like he’s genuinely smiling… Though he still looks creepy as hell.

    1. Alpha male high-achieving winners usually don’t smile a lot.

      A free tip from your uncle DD: most heterosexual women don’t find men who smile too much to be attractive. It’s a sign of weakness and submission in chimpanzee and the higher order primates.

      1. What if your job involves gladhandling people? You need to know how to smile.

      2. Glad to hear that your frame of reference for how to live is higher order primates.

        1. Simple Mikey is basically Dwight Schrute, but with fewer redeeming qualities.

      3. What kind of fucking beta cares what the breed mares think?

      4. “…in chimpanzee and the higher order primates.”

        So, if you prefer human women, don’t worry about it.

  3. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently told Bloomberg Politics what he considered the greatest accomplishment of his political career. “For me personally,” McConnell said, “it would be finally finishing that strawberry.”

  4. That’s why so many people hold their noses and vote Republican. Republicans are stupid and corrupt, but at least they’ve been trained in to supporting semi-decent judicial candidates, who look like Solomon compared to the people the Democrats try to foist on the country.

  5. The only respectable judge that could ever be appointed is the judge that neither side approves of. If I know how a judge is going to rule on a case before that case ever reaches his bench, he is not a judge. He is nothing more than political pawn, at the whim of whichever party appointed him. With all do respect to our Founding Fathers, this is the one branch of government they totally fucked up. There is no true separation of powers, no checks and balances, when one of the three branches is beholden to the other two.

    1. What if we know in advance that the judge (as evidenced by articles or prior decisions) believes Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson were wrong? Would that be a problem?

    2. If I know how a judge is going to rule on a case before that case ever reaches his bench, he is not a judge. He is nothing more than political pawn, at the whim of whichever party appointed him.

      If I don’t know how a judge is going to rule on a case before that case ever reaches his bench, he is not a judge. He does not make decisions based on a set of rules or principles, and is nothing more than a set of dice, at the whim of whichever way the wind is blowing at the moment.

      Fixed that for ya.

    3. I don’t think you understand checks & balances; the idea of them is for them to be beholden to each other. The powers each wield are supposed to be separate, but they themselves are supposed to be checked & balanced by each other.

      How would you do it, have foreigners appoint the judges?

      1. Maybe some kind of hereditary priesthood.

  6. “The other, more interesting story is that these new judges come from various parts of the broader conservative legal movement, including its libertarian wing.”

    This Libertarian Moment brought to you by the God Emperor of the United States

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.