Although daily Donald Trump seems like a Quixote-like commander-in-chief (apologies to Don Quixote) hell-bent on narcissistic demands for validation and “greatness”, and a daily irritant to the majority of Americans (based on most public polls and the Hillary Clinton popular vote totals), he has thus far managed to accomplish some long-term items in the legal field. This does not refer to his more-often-than-not losses in the federal court cases, including more on the way. It does refer to Mr. Trump’s accelerating pace of appointing federal court justices with life-time jobs.

This series of appointments set a modern record recently for the number of first year appointments/confirmations of federal judges by a beginning president. Mr. Trump has had 23 confirmed appointments of Article III federal judges. Mr. Obama, the previous president, had 13. What are Article III federal judges? They are the 9 Supreme Court justices, the 179 justices of the federal Court of Appeals, the 9 justices of the International Trade Court, and the 677 judges of the federal District Courts.

The major implication of this trend by Mr. Trump, if it continues, is that the cause of judicial reform of the mandatory-minimums system is doomed to failure, and many more African American and Latino/a men and women will continue to be incarcerated in federal prisons. Abortions rights, voting rights, and other such issues will also be in deeper trouble than they are in already.

How did this happen, since Mr. Trump also holds the record for appointing the most judges deemed to be unqualified for the federal bench? Once the Republicans achieved majority control of the U.S. Senate, they utilized that authority to both stop the latter-day appointments of many of former President Obama’s judicial appointments (remember Merrick Garland for Supreme Court), and they changed a 60-year tradition in the U.S. Senate of needing 60 Senators to confirm presidential picks for the federal court system. Now only a simple majority is needed to confirm presidential federal court picks. Thus, as stated by U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, the Republicans are able to quickly rush through Mr. Trump’s federal court nominees.

In fact, Senator Feinstein has recently sounded the alarm over the issue. “The Supreme Court hears between 100 and 150 cases each year out of the more than 7,000 it’s asked to review,” she said. “But in 2015 alone, more than 55,000 cases were filed in federal appeals courts. … In a way, circuit courts serve as the de facto Supreme Court for the vast majority of individuals who bring cases. They are the last word.” So, “the speed at which these judges are being rammed through the process,” she says, “is stunning.”

Of course, Mr. Trump has a very long way to go to equal the appointment record of either of the last 8 presidents in terms of total court appointments. His nemesis, Mr. Obama, appointed over 329 confirmed Article III federal judges, while Mr. Bush did 340, Mr. Clinton 387, and Mr. Reagan, the modern record holder for this process, did 382 such confirmed appointments. Currently, there are 874 authorized Article III judgeships into which a president can appoint barristers to lifetime positions.

In order to drastically change the federal court system towards more limitations on abortion, voting rights, criminal justice, healthcare and basic rights of citizens, Mr. Trump would have to complete at least one presidential term, let alone be re-elected for a second term. The prospects for either eventuality grow dimmer every day, thankfully. Meanwhile, we must keep paying attention.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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