Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing that former President Donald Trump’s judicial appointments have been an important success for his presidency. You can find a counterpoint here, where Professor Scott Gerber argues that Trump’s Supreme Court appointments have been a disappointment.
February 13, 2016 was a shocking day for conservatives. Justice Scalia unexpectedly died, putting the balance of the Supreme Court — and America as we knew it — on the line. The next justice would determine whether the federal government had unbridled power — whether we kept or lost our rights to speak, associate, worship and protect ourselves.
Understanding that grave importance, then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell boldly decided to wait until the American people chose their next president before filling this vacancy.
This helped propel President Donald Trump to an upset victory over Hillary Clinton. Instead of a Justice Garland, who has proven himself a leftwing activist as attorney general, we got Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Trump appointed two more justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, making it the first constitutionalist majority on the Supreme Court in nearly 80 years — a court that finally understands that its modest, but critical, role is to protect Americans from government overreach and mob rule.
While the Supreme Court gets most of the headlines, the vast majority of cases are decided in the lower courts. With the backing of McConnell, Grassley and past-Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, Trump appointed 54 judges to the critically important federal courts of appeals — the last stop for more than 99% of all federal appeals.
Trump is #2 of 45 presidents for the number of Article III judges appointed. And the only reason Trump is not #1 is because Congress created 152 new judgeships for President Carter to fill.
There are 13 federal courts of appeals around the country. When Trump took office, Republican-appointed judges only controlled four. When he left, they controlled a majority, including flipping the Second, Third and Eleventh Circuits. Remarkably, Trump also transformed the once-out-of-whack Ninth Circuit, shrinking the vote margin from 11 to just 3 more Democrat-appointed judges than Republicans. Conservatives are now winning stunning victories — including the Ninth Circuit upholding the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule. It also affirmed a lower-court ruling striking down California’s gun-grabbing magazine ban.
The last seven months have proven that Biden is by no means the moderate he advertised; he’s a dutiful follower of his left-wing handlers. And with radicalized and emboldened Democrats controlling the political branches, the judiciary is America’s last line of defense against the woke mobs — both inside and outside of government. The Supreme Court and the lower courts, with nearly a quarter of the federal judiciary appointed by Trump, have proven to be a strong last line of defense.
This started even before Biden entered the White House. Last year, the Court allowed Attorney General Bill Barr to proceed with delivering justice by executing some of America’s most heinous murderers — all of whom sat on death row for far too long because activist judges and officials refused to follow the law. The first executions included a white supremacist who brutally killed a family of three, and others who violently murdered children. Good riddance.
In Espinoza v. Montana, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot discriminate against religious schools in their private school-choice programs. This was a groundbreaking decision that will lead to real school choice and educational opportunity for Americans — especially poor, black kids trapped in failed government schools.
With the confirmation of Justice Barrett, the Court transformed from the 5-4 John Roberts Court to the 5-4 Clarence Thomas Court. The results have been immediate. As NPR noted, “The court has done an about-face on these issues involving worship in churches, synagogues, mosques and now homes since the arrival of Justice Barrett.”
Her confirmation couldn’t have come at a better time, with religious freedom under assault by overzealous public officials who used the pandemic to discriminate against Christians and other believers.
Judge Justin Walker, one of Trump’s appointments to the DC Circuit, served as the tip of the spear when he ruled that the Louisville, Kentucky, mayor violated our constitutional rights by banning drive-up Easter services — but allowing drive-through liquor sales.
Courage is contagious, and other federal judges followed — including even federal judges in California who struck down Gov. Gavin Newsom’s discriminatory bans on church services (including even in one’s own home) while he hypocritically broke his own rules to dine with his pals in Napa Valley.
And we’ve recently seen federal judges start to step up and correctly hold that the Constitution and other federal laws guarantee equality in America — not discriminatory equity, critical race theory, and other Marxist-driven garbage.
With a President Hillary Clinton appointing a Justice Garland and other left-wing justices, there’s little reason to doubt that Americans wouldn’t still be banned from churches and other religious services — just like what’s happening in Canada and other Western countries around the world. Left-wing judges would uphold blatant racial discrimination peddled by the self-described “trained Marxists” at Black Lives Matter. Our rights to speak, associate and protect ourselves would be under constant assault.
The Supreme Court doesn’t always get it right. They miss opportunities. They do not move fast enough for our liking. But since Trump appointed three constitutionalists to the bench and near-record numbers of lower-court judges, the federal judiciary has consistently moved the ball forward. Sometimes, it’s a yard. Sometimes, it’s a first down. Sometimes, it’s a touchdown. It’s rarely a fumble or interception.
What a difference the Trump presidency made.
Mike Davis is the founder and president of the Article III Project (A3P), a grassroots advocacy organization that supports constitutionalist judges, fights radical assaults on judicial independence and opposes nominees outside of the mainstream. Davis previously served as the chief counsel for nominations for then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), where he served as staff leader for the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh and a record number of federal circuit judges. Davis previously clerked for Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, both on the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.