SMU Law Review Forum

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Judging Biden


It would have been easy for President Joe Biden to approach judicial appointments (and, particularly, circuit court appointments) the same way as the Administration he served as Vice President. Like President Obama, President Biden inherited a country in turmoil. A deadly pandemic had killed nearly 400,000 Americans. Necessary quarantine orders shuttered schools and businesses, and ground the economy to a halt. Partisan tensions were still raging, culminating in the violent storming of the Capitol by right-wing insurrectionists. People needed the vaccine, economic relief, and a return to some semblance of normalcy. Also, like President Obama (and thanks to President Trump), President Biden inherited relatively few judicial vacancies—only forty-six, the fewest since President George H.W. Bush inherited thirty-seven in 1989. So, like President Obama, you could understand if President Biden felt the need to focus his efforts elsewhere. But after watching President Trump appoint young, deeply conservative appellate judges and justices for four years, the Biden Administration realized it could not repeat the same well-meaning mistakes Democratic administrations had been making for decades. Instead, it has recognized that—at least for the time being—it has an opportunity to make an impact on the federal judiciary and seems poised to do what it can to maximize it.

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