Trump Hits Milestone for Appointments to Federal Courts

President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House about his judicial appointments on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (CN) – With the Thursday confirmation of a Connecticut prosecutor to a seat on the Second Circuit, President Donald Trump has now filled a quarter of the seats on federal appeals courts in the United States.

The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed William Nardini to a seat on the Second Circuit with an 86-2 vote on Thursday afternoon, giving Trump his 45th appointee to a federal circuit court in the less than three years he has been in office. That means a quarter of the 179 authorized appeals court judgeships are filled by Trump appointees.

By comparison, President Barack Obama appointed 55 judges to the courts of appeal during the eight years he was in the White House, in part due to a Republican blockade against his judicial nominees. President George W. Bush appointed 62 judges during his eight years in office, with Democrats also holding up some of his nominees at the end of his second term.

Most of Trump’s nominees to the federal appeals courts have been young and, with a handful of exceptions, come with sterling conservative credentials. They have also overwhelmingly been white men, with only six non-white Trump appointees to federal circuit courts, according to the Federal Judicial Center. Only one of Trump’s appeals court appointees, D.C. Circuit Judge Neomi Rao, is a woman of color.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who has been at the forefront of the Republican efforts to remake the federal bench, hailed the success Trump and the Republican Senate have enjoyed in filling seats on the appellate courts.

“There is nothing about this that ought to be viewed as a partisan accomplishment or for only this president or only one side,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “That’s the wrong way to look at it. Every American should be proud of this. Citizens deserve a judiciary of fair-minded men and women who don’t confuse their jobs with the job of a legislator.”

Nardini has spent his career as a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, taking the job in 2000. A clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, Nardini spent 2010 to 2014 as a Justice Department attaché at the U.S. embassy in Rome.

He came with the support of Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Senate also confirmed two nominees to federal district courts on Thursday, including the former solicitor general of Arkansas who was nominated to serve on a court in that state.

After a party-line 51-41 vote on Thursday afternoon, Lee Rudofsky will take a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Rudofsky works as senior director of Walmart’s global anticorruption compliance team, but spent 2015 to 2018 as solicitor general of Arkansas.

Like other nominees Trump has drawn from solicitor general’s offices in red states, Rudofsky faced questions about positions he took in court on behalf of Arkansas, including defending a law banning abortions after 12 weeks and a state voter identification law.

Rudofsky also raised eyebrows on the left when at his nomination hearing he backed away from a brief he joined while out of government urging the Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional state bans on gay marriage.

Less controversial was Jennifer Wilson, whom the Senate confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania with an 88-3 vote. Wilson has worked as a partner at the Duncannon, Pa., firm Philpott Wilson since 2009 and before that spent time as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice’s Tax Division.

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