While the national focus in Washington is whether the U.S. Senate will confirm Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court, a new report issued on Thursday questions the quality and diversity of President Trump’s other nominees to the federal judiciary.
According to Integrity Florida, an independent watchdog and research group, 91 percent of the 140 individuals nominated by Trump to serve as judges on the federal courts are white. That’s compared to 80 percent of the judicial nominees proposed by George W. Bush, and 57 percent of those named by Barack Obama.
The report also notes that the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the federal judiciary has rated four of Trump’s judicial nominees as “Not Qualified ” – more than any of the last four presidents.
That’s not necessarily surprising, since like the last Republican administration, President Trump has shown disdain for receiving any advice from the ABA, which conservatives have labeled as a partisan liberal organization.
Like the Bush administration, White House officials announced in 2017 that it would not allow the ABA to review potential candidates before they were nominated, a practice that was reversed during the Obama administration’s eight years.
Ben Wilcox, research director of Integrity Florida and the report’s co-author, pushed back on that take.
“I really think if you look at the ABA ratings, they’ve rated conservative justices as well qualified and they make a point of not bringing politics or ideology into it,” he said at a press conference in Tallahassee.
Instead, Wilcox noted that the Trump administration has been relying on conservative judicial advice groups like the Heritage Foundation and The Federalist Society, a Washington D.C. based special interest group that provided a potential list of Supreme Court nominees to Trump during his campaign for president in 2016. Both of Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court – Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch- have come from that list.
The Florida Phoenix reached out to two representatives from the Federalist Society’s Florida chapter, but did not hear back from them before publishing this story.
Since taking office, Trump has nominated 140 judges for federal courts. Of them, 127 have been white, and 108 of them have been male.
“It’s important that judges be perceived as representing the population of a given circuit,” said Brad Ashwell, a research associate with Integrity Florida and co-author of the report. “Studies show that diversity in the judiciary leads to a better body of jurisprudence, and justices serve as role models, so it sends a message to everyone regardless of race or gender that they could become a judge.”
For those concerned about the impact that Trump is having on the courts, there is also this nugget – the president has already nominated more federal judicial nominees in his first year and a half in office than three of his four predecessors did in their entire first two years in office.
The U.S. Senate earlier this week confirmed Britt Grant to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which includes Florida in its jurisdiction. It was Trump’s 24th circuit court appointment, more than any other president has secured at this point in his presidency since the creation of the regional circuit court system in 1891, the New York Times reported. The Senate did not confirm Barack Obama’s 24th nominee to the regional circuit courts until the fourth year of his presidency.
Trump has nominated eight judges for positions in Florida so far, and seven of them have been men. Five of them are white, two are Hispanic and one is African-American.
The report by Integrity Florida was published via request by the Progress Florida Education Institute.