Even the nation's most liberal federal court can't escape the Trump Effect. With two more recent confirmations to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, President Donald Trump continues to close the gap between Democrat and Republican-appointed judges on the notoriously left-leaning panel. The San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit has a longstanding reputation as the most activist court in the nation, as evidenced by its high rate of reversals at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Now, the Ninth Circuit's liberal reputation is in jeopardy. "There certainly has been a marked change in the composition of the (Ninth Circuit)," says Charles "Rocky" Rhodes, professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. "It's soon going to be a very balanced court. Probably within a few months, it will have 16 judges appointed by Democratic presidents and 13 judges appointed by Republican presidents...when President Trump took office it had 19 judges appointed by Democrats and only six appointed by Republicans."
With possible retirements looming for at least half of the Democrat-appointed judges on the Ninth Circuit, there is a possibility of Trump flipping the court to a Republican majority sometime in the near future. Whether that happens or not, Rhodes says the court has already undergone a significant change. "This makes it a pretty ideologically balanced court now, and certainly not one that is either going to be leaning to the far left or to the far right," he tells KTRH.
President Trump, with the help of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been steadily reshaping the federal judiciary since taking office, from the U.S. Supreme Court to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Ninth Circuit makeover will have long-standing implications. "I think one of the biggest legacies Trump is going to have will be his impact on the judiciary," says Rhodes. "Not only at the Supreme Court level, but these lower court judges are really important as well."