WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump may have been stymied on many fronts this past year, but in one of the most important areas – picking judges and getting them confirmed – he's moving at an incredibly rapid pace, often despite Democratic opposition.
"In his first year, he made almost 70 judicial nominations, which was more than twice the number that President Obama made for his first year," noted Elizabeth Slattery, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation.
"And he had a record-breaking number of appeals court nominees who were confirmed – 12 in his first year, in addition to a Supreme Court justice and about 10 other district court judges as well," she said.
And many are awaiting confirmation in the U.S. Senate right now, Slattery pointed out, saying, "There are currently about 50 nominees pending."
Meanwhile, much is left to be done on Trump's end, too.
"There are about 140 vacancies, so he still has quite a bit of a ways to go to fill all of those," Slattery told CBN News.
There Are Still 'Jimmy Carter Judges'
Why does this picking of judges – and the kind of judges they are – matter so much?
Slattery's colleague at Heritage, John Malcolm, pointed out, "They will serve for decades. And there are only so many of them, and they will have a huge direction on the course of the law and hence on our democracy."
"A president's ability to appoint judges is the biggest legacy – the longest-lasting legacy – a president can have," Slattery added. "I mean, there are still Jimmy Carter judges on the bench. So judges last for decades."
Media attention always swirls around the U.S. Supreme Court and its nine justices. But the district and circuit court judges Trump is now picking and the Senate is confirming have much more influence on the law than do those Supreme Court justices.
"The Supreme Court only hears about 75 cases a year," Malcolm noted.
"By comparison, the courts of appeal hear about 50,000 cases and the district courts hear several 100,000s," Slattery added.
As for the kind of constitutionalist judges Trump's been nominating, Slattery and Malcolm are thrilled.
They Won't Legislate from the Bench
"I think that it is a strong group of originalists and textualists in the Scalia and now Neil Gorsuch mold," Malcolm said of them. "I don't know every one of these judges, but I know a lot of them. And they are just an outstanding group of qualified men and women."
"They are not judges who will legislate from the bench," Slattery told CBN News. "They understand that they are judges and they are supposed to be impartial and neutral and not just legislators who wear robes."