Outgoing President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have used the last four years to build a right-wing pipeline into the federal court system, confirming hundreds of like-minded judges at every level — and while at least some of these judges have upheld the rule of law, the net impact has been to make the court system more conservative and more hostile to civil and voting rights.
But President-elect Joe Biden is already planning to push the courts back in a more progressive direction — and according to The Wall Street Journal, he will likely have an opportunity to do it for one key reason: liberal judges have been waiting to retire and give him vacancies.
"Biden advisers say they will have compiled a list of potential nominees by Inauguration Day — including a short list for the Supreme Court, where the eldest justice, President Clinton appointee Stephen Breyer, is 82 years old," reported Jess Bravin. "Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans are determined to leave no vacancies for Mr. Biden to fill. But once he takes office, Clinton and Obama appointees might begin to step down with the assurance that a Democratic president can appoint like-minded successors."
This is largely the reverse of what happened under Trump; while he did flip some seats previously held by Democratic appointees, most prominently the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the majority of his appointments were to vacancies created by conservative appellate and district judges who stepped aside for him.
Biden is likely to face obstacles if Republicans still control the Senate after the runoffs — but his decades in the Senate have taught him how to deal with McConnell and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who is expected to retake his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee under a Republican Senate. He has also chaired the Judiciary Committee himself and is thoroughly familiar with the process.
"Mr. Biden’s judicial philosophy is rooted in the liberal approach the Supreme Court took in the 1950s and 1960s under Chief Justice Earl Warren, when it expanded individual rights, enforced protections for criminal defendants and dismantled state-enforced racial segregation in schools and public places," said the report. He was instrumental in the bipartisan rejection of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, a controversial nominee hostile to civil rights, and oversaw the hearings for Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed over his objections.