From The Asian Reporter, V27, #22 (November 20, 2017),
pages 7 & 11.
Trump choosing white men as judges, highest
rate in decades
By Catherine Lucey and Meghan Hoyer
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is nominating white men
to America’s federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30
years, threatening to reverse a slow transformation toward a
judiciary that reflects the nation’s diversity.
So far, 91 percent of Trump’s nominees are white, and 81
percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three
of every four are white men, with few African Americans and
Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly
homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.
The shift could prove to be one of Trump’s most enduring
legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has
inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an
aging population of judges. That puts him in a position to
significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of
civil-rights, environmental, criminal-justice, and other
disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront
about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives,
and has made it clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns
about shrinking racial or gender diversity.
Trump is anything but shy about his plans, calling his
imprint on the courts an "untold story" of his presidency.
"Nobody wants to talk about it," he says. "But when you think
of it ... that has consequences 40 years out." He predicted at a
recent cabinet meeting, "A big percentage of the court will be
changed by this administration over a very short period of
Advocates for putting more women and racial minorities on the
bench argue that courts that more closely reflect the
demographics of the population ensure a broader range of
viewpoints and inspire greater confidence in judicial rulings.
One court that has become a focus in the debate is the
Eastern District of North Carolina, a region that, despite its
sizeable black population, has never had a black judge. A seat
on that court has been open for more than a decade. George W.
Bush named a white man, and Barack Obama at different points
nominated two black women, but none of those nominees ever came
to a vote in the senate.
Trump has renominated Bush’s original choice: Thomas Farr, a
private attorney whose work defending North Carolina’s
redistricting maps and a voter identification law has raised
concerns among civil-rights advocates.
Kyle Barry, senior policy counsel for the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal
Defense and Educational Fund, said that when diversity is
lacking, "there’s a clear perception where the courts are not a
place people can go and vindicate their civil rights."
In recent decades, Democrats have consistently named more
racial minorities and women to the courts. But even compared to
his Republican predecessors, Trump’s nominees stand out. So far,
he has nominated the highest percentage of white judges in his
first year since Ronald Reagan. If he continues on his trend
through his first term, he will be the first Republican since
Herbert Hoover to name fewer women and minorities to the court
than his GOP predecessor.
The AP reviewed 58 nominees to lifetime positions on
appellate and district courts, as well as the Supreme Court, by
the end of October. Fifty-three are white, three are Asian
American, one is Hispanic, and one is African American. There
are 47 men and 11 women. Thirteen have won senate approval.
The numbers stand in marked contrast to those of Obama, who
made diversifying the federal bench a priority. White men
represented just 37 percent of judges confirmed during Obama’s
two terms; nearly 42 percent of his judges were women.
Some of Obama’s efforts were thwarted by a Republican-led
senate that blocked all the nominations he made in the final
year of his presidency, handing Trump a backlog of more than 100
open seats and significant sway over the future of the court.
Trump has moved aggressively to name new judges, getting off
to a much quicker start than his predecessors. He has nominated
more than twice as many as Obama had at this point in his
presidency. While there have been clashes in the senate over the
nomination process, Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell
has signalled that he is committed to moving judicial nominees
Many of Trump’s white, male nominees would replace white,
male judges. But of the Trump nominees currently pending, more
than a quarter are white males slated for seats have been held
by women or minorities.
Of the eight seats currently vacant that had non-white
judges, only one has a non-white nominee.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley says Trump is focused on
qualifications and suggests that prioritizing diversity would
bring politics to the bench.
"The president has delivered on his promise to nominate the
best, most-qualified judges," Gidley said. "While past
presidents may have chosen to nominate activist judges with a
political agenda and a history of legislating from the bench,
President Trump has nominated outstanding originalist judges who
respect the U.S. Constitution."
Trump, who has cited the confirmation of Supreme Court
Justice Neil Gorsuch as a key achievement, has focused on judges
with conservative résumés. His picks have been welcomed by
conservative legal groups.
Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist
Society who has advised Trump on judges, said the president’s
judicial picks should be evaluated based on his nominations to
the Supreme Court and appellate courts, given that home-state
senators traditionally offer recommendations for district courts
that carry significant weight when the lawmaker and the
president are of the same party.
There have been 19 nominees to those higher courts; more than
two-thirds are white men.
And past presidents also have pushed for diversity at the
district courts. The Obama White House would make clear that
diversity was a priority and "if we found good candidates, we
would encourage senators to take a look at them," said
Christopher Kang, who worked on judicial nominations in the
Alberto Gonzales, who served as attorney general for George
W. Bush, said that when considering nominees "sometimes
President Bush would look at the list we gave him and he would
say, ‘I want more diversity, I want more women, I want more
In his first year, Obama’s confirmed judicial nominees were
31 percent white men. Bush had 67 percent, Bill Clinton 38
percent, George H.W. Bush 74 percent, and Reagan 93 percent.
For its analysis, The Associated Press looked at all lifetime
appointments to federal judgeships — including all seats on the
Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, and
International Courts of Trade — counting nominations to higher
courts as new appointments. For the biographical information of
each judge, The AP used data from the Federal Judicial Center.
In the case of pending Trump nominees, reporters called each
nominee or their representative to collect information on race,
gender, and birthdate. In eight cases where nominees declined to
give their race, officials familiar with the information
confirmed that all identified themselves as white males.