Federal Judges Are Retiring or Taking Senior Status Now Biden Is Choosing their Successors

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More Judges Retiring

After Joe Biden’s election win, eight federal judges announced their intention to retire or semi retire into senior positions in 2021, opening up new court vacancies for the newly-elected President to fill. These were the ones who couldn’t wait for Joe Biden to be sworn in before making their announcements.

That must have irked McConnell whose primary focus had been to ram through as many judicial appointments as he could; more than 230 of them in a single term, including three to the US Supreme Court.

But these eight judges were clearly waiting until the Trump Error came to an end and the Biden Era began. Not that judges necessarily consider the party of the current President when they choose their retirement date; it’s more often a very personal decision. However, University of Richmond Law Professor, Carl Tobias, an expert on judicial nominations, notes it can be a strong motivating factor.

“I think this is less of a custom than for a Supreme Court nominee, where justices really do try to time their departures so the opposite party doesn’t get to replace them,” said Professor Tobias.

He then goes on to explain how the Trump factor is creating an exception to the general rule.

“Still, I think Trump skews perspective here,” he continued. “I think that Trump was so nasty to federal judges and so counter to the rule of law that he repelled many federal judges. I think for strong Democrats in particular, I could see judges saying, ‘No, I’m not going to let him replace me.’”

Eight retirements in the space of two and a half months may not seem much on which to base a trend. But, as it’s turning out, this was the trickle before Inauguration Day marked the turning of the spigot to full flow.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts wasted no time in penning her retirement letter which was promptly delivered to the White House just 90 minutes after Joe Biden was sworn in.

Judge retiresWithin seven days, seven federal judges with lifetime appointments announced their decisions to retire or semi-retire, five confirmed by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts with two others yet to be recorded on their website, and more waiting in the queue.

That they were waiting for Joe Biden to take office is evident both from their timing and their words. In his letter received by the White House the day after Inauguration, U.S. District Judge William Alsup wrote, “Congratulations on becoming our new president. I feel it is time now for me to ‘go senior.’” There’s clearly the desire expressed here that President Biden be the one who chooses his successor.

It isn’t just Democratic-appointed judges either. While eight of the retirees were appointed by Bill Clinton and two by Barack Obama, another five were George W Bush nominees. The one thing they all have in common is that they didn’t want Trump nominating some unqualified nutjob as their replacement.

As of Thursday, President Biden now has 46 district court vacancies and 3 appeals court vacancies to fill ― numbers that continue to grow. He hasn’t nominated any judges so far but Democrats in the Senate received a formal request last month to provide judicial nominee recommendations for existing district court vacancies by January 19.

Unlike Trump’s white, male, right-wing ideologues, President Biden will infuse far more diversity into the courts, just as we are seeing him do with his Cabinet picks. Already the country is a better place.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. It’s probably too much to hope for but I spent most of my life where my greatest fantasy was to see the Cubs in the Word Series which if you aren’t a serious baseball fan is something anyone reading this doesn’t get. Such a fantasy opened up any of us who had it as laughable and possibly certifiable! Well, my Cubbies not only made it not that many years ago (something I’d long accepted I’d never see in my lifetime) but won so all kinds of new fantasies pop into my head. One of them is now related to those judges McConnell rammed through. Some are true RWNJ but at least had some actual qualifications for the bench. Many however weren’t qualified to even plead a case in court (indeed, some never did or even filed a motion in some matter) much less serve as a judge. The ONLY thing that mattered was that they were young, bat-shit crazy right wing and would do whatever their Federalist Society “handler” told them to do.

    Of course, they had to have some kind of “hook” and scary as it is to contemplate had it not been for Covid and Trump’s tragic mismanagement of it he might still be in the WH. That means there would have been an extra four years (or more – shudder) to cement them in place and more importantly sweep any scandals, skeletons or conflicts of interest that never came to light during their rushed confirmations aside. Corruption runs deep and while The Federalist Society (with help from a couple other groups) provided Trump lists of potential appointees we are talking Trump and his inability to not sometimes try to grift something for himself. So there’s surely corruption whether directly Trump related or other corruption with many of those judges. Not to mention with so many being unqualified in the next year the suddenly under some scrutiny itself Federalist Society (which doesn’t want to be in the same zip code as a spotlight) might not be there for hand holding which can mean some pretty appalling, boneheaded stuff from many of these very new and unqualified judges.

    Roberts himself is I’m sure sweating the possibility of the fact that ALL SIX of the GOP Justices (including of course himself) are long time Federalist Society members and major players prior to ascending to the bench or Court. So as Chief Justice he might well exercise his right to initiate investigations of a lot of the outright hacks who either do something really stupid from their bench or in response to some good investigative reporting uncovering stuff that should have and would have been uncovered in a proper confirmation process. And, as a result some of these hacks might quietly resign like Trump’s sister did to stop an actual investigation from proceeding. That in turn would mean Biden could replace some of them. Not nearly enough but we should take anything we can get on this front.

    Again, it might be too much to hope for but I like to fantasize about things political instead of shall we say more earthly delights. Or sports.

    • RBG should have retired when Obama was in office. She had health issues that came up during his tenure. Continuing to hang on knowing that the next administration would likely be republican seems short sighted and a little selfish now.

  2. All this is why I LAUGHED at all the panic over Mitch getting those judicial nominations through…like they were going to be the last judges to retire in a good while. Nor do I suspect that being a Trump nominee is going to help those that did get through. If anything, judges are much easier to get rid of than presidents by legal means.

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