When President Trump took office, only four federal courts of appeals — the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth — contained a majority of Republican appointees. However, President Trump, assisted by Sen. Grassley and his fellow Republican Senators, has done an outstanding job of filling vacancies on these courts with conservative jurists. One sensed that it was only a matter of time until at least one appeal courts with a majority of Democrat appointees flipped.
Now, says Ed Whelan, the Third Circuit may be on the verge of flipping. When Trump was inaugurated, the Third Circuit had seven Democratic appointees, five Republican appointees, and two vacancies. Today, the court has seven Democratic appointees, six Republican appointees, and one vacancy. Stephanos Bibas filled one of the vacancies, and David Porter replaced a Republican appointee, D. Michael Fisher, who took senior status early in 2017.
But help is on the way. Trump has nominated Paul Matey to the court. His nomination is pending in committee and he’s likely to be confirmed soon. At that point, the court will be evenly divided.
This week, moreover, Thomas Vanaskie, a Clinton appointee, will take senior status. President Trump will then be able to select a nominee. That nominee’s confirmation would mean that Republican nominees outnumber Democratic ones, by 8-6.
Ed notes that the party affiliation of the appointing president is an imperfect proxy for judicial philosophy. I agree. But it’s a good enough proxy for conservatives to celebrate the prospect of the Third Circuit’s “flip.”