The Senate Just Confirmed Trump’s 200th Lifetime Federal Judge

Courts Resources 06.24,20

With Cory Wilson’s confirmation to the Fifth Circuit on Wednesday, the Senate majority has rubber-stamped 200 lifetime confirmations since Trump took office in January 2017.

Wilson is emblematic of the kind of judicial nominees Trump has put forward — and that Senate Judiciary Chairmen Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham, orchestrated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have eagerly rushed through to confirmation. Wilson is a white man and an extreme partisan with a long anti-civil rights record. He is a member of the right-wing Federalist Society. And he joins Trump’s 200 lifetime appointees to the federal bench, of which nearly 90 percent are white, nearly 80 percent are male, and about two-thirds are white men.

Wilson’s confirmation also fills the final vacancy on our nation’s circuit courts (the level directly beneath the U.S. Supreme Court) where Trump’s appointees comprise around 30 percent of all sitting judges. In just three and a half years, the Senate has confirmed 53 circuit court judges under Trump compared to 55 under Obama during his entire eight years in office.

Like Trump’s appointees overall, his circuit court judges are notable for what they are lacking: racial and gender diversity. Eleven of his 53 circuit court appointees are women. One is Latinx. One is openly LGBTQ. Zero are Black.

As the president brags about his accomplishments for the Black community (which we dispute), the absence of a single Black circuit court nominee reveals a very different picture — especially when understood this way: There have only been 39 Black people appointed to our nation’s circuit courts in history (the first was William H. Hastie, nominated to the Third Circuit by President Truman), while Trump has appointed zero.

And some of these judges have replaced Black nominees put forth by President Obama, but who were blocked by Senate Republicans. This includes:

  • Rebecca Haywood, who would have been the first Black woman on the Third Circuit
  • Myra Selby, who would have been the first Black judge and first woman from Indiana on the Seventh Circuit
  • Abdul Kallon, who would have been the first Black judge from Alabama on the Eleventh Circuit

Trump’s record of judicial diversity has been so outrageous that a sitting district court judge, Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi, criticized the president’s judicial selections in an April 2019 speech. And he pointed out that diversifying the federal judiciary is about more than ensuring that women, people of color, and people of different backgrounds serve on our courts in larger numbers:

“With no Muslims on the bench, will our judiciary understand the many facets of religious freedom? How can it defend economic opportunity with so few judges who know the taste of a free lunch program or the weight of poverty? How can our judiciary understand the depths of mass incarceration when so few judges have stood with the accused or know them as neighbors, as Sunday School students, as loved ones? Filled only with the experiences of prosecutors and state court judges, of Big Law partners and corporate counsel, of a single religion or sexual orientation, our courts will fail to find the many truths justice must see. We need a judiciary as diverse as our country – as diverse as ‘We the People.’”

Reeves has it right: Diversity representative and reflective of our country matters because communities depend on the federal courts to affirm their lived experiences and recognize injustice from the perspective of many — not the narrow perspective of one. Of course, differing perspectives alone won’t ensure that our courts will recognize and protect civil and human rights. But promoting decision-making that includes voices from America’s communities — all of them — will help foster an equitable system of justice.

Trump’s confirmed judges don’t just represent a gigantic setback for judicial diversity in America. It is intentional that many of them bring to the bench records of hostility to civil and human rights — and for many, this hostility did not end when they put on their robes. People For the American Way’s Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears series, for example, demonstrates how Trump’s confirmed judges have ruled in ways that harm the rights of working people, religious minorities, women, voters, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and more.

The civil rights community understands that our courts matter to the lives of every person in America and that it matters who is confirmed to the bench. We also recognize that every nomination counts. Because here is the truth: If we can prevent even one anti-civil rights nominee from sitting in a lifetime seat on the federal bench, thousands of people in America could be treated more fairly for decades.

That is why — even with the current president and Senate majority — we fight on for our courts. And we’ll never stop.

For more information, read “Trump’s Takeover of the Courts” in the April 2020 edition of the University of St. Thomas Law Journal.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights opposed the following Trump judicial nominees:



  • Ryan Bounds, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • Jeff Mateer, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • Matthew Petersen, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • Brett Talley, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama

Returned to the president, not re-nominated:


On May 13, 2019, The Leadership Conference announced opposition to judicial nominees who have refused to state unequivocally that the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision was correctly decided. Read our letter.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights expressed serious concerns about the following nominations/appointments: