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Senate confirms Trump's 200th judicial nominee, filling all circuit court vacancies

Senate continues confirming judicial nominees
Senate continues confirming judicial nominee during coronavirus pandemic 04:25

Washington — The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Trump's 200th nominee to the federal bench, a milestone that caps an extraordinary effort by the president and the Republican-controlled Senate to leave an enduring stamp on the federal judiciary.

Senators approved the nomination of Cory Wilson to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 52 to 48. With Wilson's confirmation and that of Judge Justin Walker to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week, Mr. Trump has now filled all vacancies to the federal circuit courts. 

Walker, however, will not take his seat on the influential D.C. Circuit until September when Judge Thomas Griffith, whose spot he is filling, officially retires.

The vote to confirm Wilson is the culmination of the push by Mr. Trump, with the crucial assistance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to reshape the federal bench and install conservative jurists who will make a lasting impact on U.S. law. In all, the president has appointed 53 judges to the circuit courts, which are the last stop for thousands of cases moving through the federal judicial system, and 143 judges to the district courts.

Opponents and supporters of Mr. Trump largely agree that the president's imprint on the federal bench will be one of his most enduring legacies, as his judicial nominees, most of whom are in their 40s and 50s, will likely serve for decades. The president has also named two justices to the Supreme Court, cementing its rightward shift.

Mr. Trump outpaces nearly all of his predecessors in judicial confirmations, ranking behind only President Jimmy Carter in terms of all Article III judges and all U.S. courts of appeals judges confirmed at this point in their presidencies. President Barack Obama, for example, saw 55 circuit court judges confirmed across his two terms as president, while Mr. Trump has seen 53 confirmed in just his first term.

McConnell marked the gravity of Wilson's confirmation Wednesday morning, saying that when the Senate departs, "there will not be a single circuit court vacancy anywhere in the nation for the first time in at least 40 years."

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who oversaw the nominations of most of Mr. Trump's judicial picks as the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including those to the Supreme Court, called the 200th judicial confirmation a "landmark achievement."

"In the hands of these many new judges, the future of American jurisprudence is bright," he said in remarks on the Senate floor.

McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, started 2020 by declaring the Senate would "leave no vacancy behind," and he has not deviated from that pledge, even as the coronavirus pandemic brought legislative activity to a crawl.

While the House conducted its business remotely, the Senate Judiciary Committee met in May to consider the nominations of Wilson and Walker, teeing up their final confirmation votes for this month, while the full Senate approved several nominations to the district courts.

On Wednesday, the Judiciary panel convened to hold confirmation hearings for six more of Mr. Trump's picks for the district courts, indicating the Senate's judicial machine continues to operate at full speed.

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