Last Updated on February 17, 2021
During President Donald Trump’s tenure, he successfully weakened the power of Democrats on the 9th Circuit Court, the largest jurisdiction in the United States and, therefore, the court that hears the largest number of cases.
For decades, the 9th Circuit Court delivered the most liberal decisions to the US Supreme Court and, in many cases, to the nation. But President Trump’s appointments to the bench in that jurisdiction achieved a more moderate and centrist bench.
But now, as Joe Biden begins to focus on judicial appointments, there is a significant chance the 9th Circuit Court will swing back to the left.
Since the 2020 General Election, several long-serving judges on the court have expressed their intention of taking “senior status.” This status exists as a state of semi-retirement, thus freeing up positions for the President’s nominees.
In total, those who have expressed a desire to take senior status number nine judges. All of those considering the move were appointed by then-President Bill Clinton, guaranteeing a reliable liberal bent in the court’s decisions.
President Trump’s appointments disturbed the Democrat majority on that bench. During his four years in office, he diluted the 11-seat margin Democrats held on the 29-judge panel to three.
“President Trump appointed 10 judges to the 9th Circuit and dramatically changed its overall ideology,” Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California, Berkeley’s law school told reporters.
Judge Milan Smith, a Bush appointee to the court, said President Trump’s 10th pick had “effectively flipped the circuit.” But with the nine judges considering senior status, this situation is tenuous at best.
— Margot Roosevelt (@margotroosevelt) November 30, 2020
While cases are traditionally heard in three-judge panels – and there is a greater probability a conservative panel will be seated to hear any given case, the move by the Clinton appointees will once again turn the advantage in the panel lotteries to Democrats.
The 9th Circuit Court governs a vast amount of territory in California and six other Western states, as well as Alaska and Hawaii.
Further, a greater number of 9th Circuit Court decisions are heard by the US Supreme Court than any other court. This is both because of the massive jurisdiction, but also because of the radical nature of the court’s make-up. Radically Progressive legal activists typically seek to bring their cases before the 9th Circuit because of its Progressive bent.
Once the Clinton-appointed judges start moving to senior status, the balance of power will return more heavily to the left. Experts and court watchers believe that could begin within the year.