President Trump began his bid Monday to reshape the makeup of the lower federal courts, with the White House announcing 10 judicial nominees it described as Trump's "third wave of Federal judicial appointments."
Coming out of its first 100 days, the administration aims to build on the successful confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the nominees were all “chosen for their deep knowledge of the law and their commitment to upholding constitutional principles.”
Two of the nominees originally were on the list of 21 candidates that the Trump transition team considered for the Supreme Court vacancy left by Antonin Scalia’s death, and ultimately filled by Gorsuch. They are Justice Joan Larsen of the Michigan Supreme Court, nominated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati; and Justice David Stras of the Minnesota Supreme Court, nominated to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
The other nominees are Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor nominated to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago; John Bush, a Louisville lawyer nominated to the 6th Circuit; Kevin C. Newsom, a former Alabama Solicitor General nominated to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta; Judge David C. Nye, nominated to the U.S. District Court for Idaho; Scott L. Palk, a former federal prosecutor nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma; Damien Schiff, nominated to federal claims court; Dabney L. Friedrich, nominated to U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; and Judge Terry Moorer, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
Democrats already were speaking out against the nominations.
“With this first slate of lower court nominees, it seems that the President is intent on continuing to outsource the judicial selection process to hard right, special interest groups rather than consulting with Senators on a bipartisan basis,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
Compared against his modern-day predecessors, Trump is behind the curve in announcing nominees to lower-profile positions below the Cabinet level.
But one area where these nominations can have a huge impact is the federal courts. While Supreme Court vacancies capture national attention, a president can leave a lasting legacy by getting like-minded justices confirmed to U.S. district, circuit and other courts across the country.
Former President Barack Obama made over 300 such appointments, as did George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. At the start of his term, Trump already is looking at nearly 130 judicial vacancies on the lower federal courts.
Following Monday’s announcement, the White House reportedly plans to roll out additional nominees at regular intervals.
White House Counsel Don McGahn previewed the forthcoming nominations in a speech last Friday, saying Trump was putting his “finishing touches” on his list and predicting people “would be amazed” by the caliber of his nominees.
Such nominees give Trump a chance to alter the balance on the courts, as several of his policies already are facing legal challenges. He had previously clashed with the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, after it blocked his initial ‘travel ban.’
He later accused his opponents of “judge shopping,” and told The Washington Examiner last month they “immediately run to the 9th Circuit.”
Fox News’ Serafin Gomez contributed to this report.