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Blocked D.C. Circuit Pick: Example of Obama Judicial Trend?

By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. on February 10, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With the widely-publicized block of D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Caitlin Halligan, opposition to President Barack Obama's judicial picks have come under scrutiny. Looking at his confirmation rate over the past three years, a recent report released from the Brookings Institute reveals that there may be more similarities in his circuit court confirmation rates than dramatic differences, compared to his predecessors.

Confirmation rates for circuit nominees have reportedly been declining steadily since Jimmy Carter's administration. Even so, President Obama has managed to get a noticeably higher proportion of his circuit nominees confirmed compared to President George W. Bush in the same time period, according to the report.

President Obama's judicial appointments strategy at this point has also been less aggressive than George W. Bush's, with 12 fewer circuit nominations than Bush had at the same time in his career. Bush was also much quicker to nominate candidates for circuit vacancies.

Although confirmation rates for circuit court judges may have not fluctuated much, President Obama has had an influence in changing the make-up of the federal appellate bench.

The number of circuit courts with a majority of Democratic appointees increased from two to five since President Obama took office, although the D.C. Circuit isn't one of them.

In addition, his nominations have been the most diverse. Nearly half of the confirmed nominees are women, more than a fifth are African American, 11 percent are Hispanic, and 7 percent Asian American.

However, the Obama administration has stated that the diversification of the bench did not happen from looking at one single factor.

"It's not just about race, it's not just about gender, it's not just about experience," White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said. "We try to look at judges in a much more holistic way."

Whether confirmations will slow down during the election year remains to be seen. So far, however, it looks like President Obama's judicial track record has been following the pack despite some bumps in the road.

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