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December 24, 2012

Any "halftime" assessment of Obama judges' impact on sentencing jurisprudence?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new Washington Post article headlined "Obama’s impact on federal judiciary." The piece is most about partisan battles over appointments, though it starts and ends with these judicial branch basics:

It takes a calculator and perhaps the rigor of Sherlock Holmes to cut through the partisan rhetoric about President Obama’s first-term record on judicial nominations.  But the bottom line is clear enough.

There are more vacancies on the federal courts now than when Obama took office nearly four years ago.  And he is the first president in generations to fail to put a nominee on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the second most influential court in the land and traditionally a training ground for Supreme Court justices.

Obama has, of course, left his mark on the high court by nominating Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.  Their confirmations leave those two seats for decades in liberal hands, and marked a historic diversification of the court.

But, depending on what the Senate does in these final days,Obama’s record on the rest of the federal judiciary will show one more opening on the nation’s powerful 13 courts of appeal than when he took office, and more than a dozen additional vacant district court judgeships....

But as [scholar Russell] Wheeler points out, a two-term president almost always has a major impact on the makeup of the federal judiciary.  “Democratic appointees, who in 2009 constituted about a third of active circuit judges, might constitute about two-thirds in 2017,” Wheeler wrote.

In any answer to the question in the title of this post, it is especially easy to focus on notable sentencing votes and opinions authored by Prez Obama's Supreme Court nominees (e.g., Kagan wrote Miller; Sotomayor wrote Pepper; both were key fourth and/or fifth votes on lots of the 5-4 rulings in favor of criminal defendants). But I would be eager to hear from anyone laboring the the federal district and circuit courts concerning any Obama appointments to the lower courts who have already had a distinctive impact on sentencing law and policy.

Some older and more recent posts on Prez Obama's judicial appointments:

December 24, 2012 at 11:39 AM | Permalink


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I am a retired teacher from the Gulf Coast. Thank you for an informative post. It will be very interesting to see who President Obama will nominate for the Supreme Court in the future. This is the first time I have visited your blog. I hope to read it again in the future.

Posted by: josemaria | Dec 24, 2012 4:34:34 PM

There are instances where Justices vote opposite their stated political views, Earl Warren, John Roberts. In sentencing, Scalia led the charge against mandatory guidelines, just making up imaginary doctrines. All live in Washington, and acquire the rent seeking disease. All will end up supporting the growth of government.

I suggest term limits such as 20 years, to be rid of any pest.

I suggest moving the Court to a small, rural town, so the Justices may acquire the culture of small town America, the real America.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 25, 2012 12:09:43 PM

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