Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Lower" Federal Courts

As Con Law Professors during an election season, many of us are asked to appear on panels variously titled "What's at Stake for The Court," depending upon who wins the Presidential and other elections.  While focus on the United States Supreme Court seems inevitable, I always try to broaden the perspective to include all the federal courts.  An article today in The New York Times by Charlie Savage (available here) makes the point succinctly with regard to appellate courts:

[T] he appeals courts, which decide tens of thousands of cases a year, are increasingly getting the last word. While the Supreme Court gets far more attention, in recent terms it has reviewed only about 75 cases a year — half what it considered a generation ago.

Savage's article is entitled "Appeals Courts Pushed to Right by Bush Choices," but also includes district court judges in some of its analysis.  Savage contends:

On Oct. 6, Mr. Bush pointed with pride to his record at a conference sponsored by the Cincinnati chapter of the Federalist Society, the elite network for the conservative legal movement. He noted that he had appointed more than a third of the federal judiciary expected to be serving when he leaves office, a lifetime-tenured force that will influence society for decades and that represents one of his most enduring accomplishments. While a two-term president typically leaves his stamp on the appeals courts - Bill Clinton appointed 65 judges, Mr. Bush 61 — Mr. Bush’s judges were among the youngest ever nominated and are poised to have an unusually strong impact.  . . . .And Mr. Bush’s appointees have found allies in like-minded judges named by Mr. Bush’s father and Reagan.

The article profiles several Court of Appeals judges, including former ConLaw Prof Mike McConnell.


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