At Fox News: Supreme Court fight over Kavanaugh got lots of attention, but most federal court action is elsewhere

14 Oct , 2018  

Dr. John Lott has a new piece at Fox News on the fact that even if Trump is president for two terms, Democrats will still control most of the lower courts. His latest piece starts this way:

Republicans are ecstatic and Democrats are livid about Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation as a Supreme Court justice. But while the Supreme Court is important, many Americans tend to exaggerate its powers.

Democrats still firmly control the nation’s district courts and circuit courts of appeals, where virtually all federal judicial decisions are made.

Even if Republicans keep control of the Senate in the Nov. 6 midterm elections, the balance of power on these courts isn’t going to change in the next two years.

The Supreme Court grants oral arguments to about 80 casesa year. The nation’s highest court decides another 50 cases without hearing oral arguments.

By contrast, the circuit courts of appeals handled 51,832 cases in the 12-month period ending March 31.

Consequently, the circuit courts – not the Supreme Court – have the final word on 99.75 percent of all cases. The lower-level district courts handled 363,000 cases.

Whether you care about immigration, gun control, abortion or other hot-button issues, the circuit courts and district courts are where most of the work occurs.

The Supreme Court generally limits itself to only those cases where there are conflicts between the different circuits. And neither Kavanaugh, Justice Neil Gorsuch, nor Chief Justice John Roberts are likely to overturn long-established precedents.

Indeed, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch – President Trump’s earlier appointee to the high court – were even co-authors on a book about honoring judicial precedent.

Republicans may be happy about confirming 26 circuit court judges so far under President Trump – but they still have a long way to go.

Of the 13 circuit courts of appeals, Democratic appointees control eight and Republican appointees control four. One is evenly split. So far, most of President Trump’s appointees (62 percent) have been replacements for retiring conservative judges.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is often referred to as the nation’s second-highest court. Because all federal agencies are headquartered in and around the nation’s capital, this court oversees their decisions. Democratic appointees have a 7-3 majority on the D.C. Circuit Court, with one vacancy due to Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over California and eight other Western states that together represent over 20 percent of the U.S. population – more than any other circuit court. Again, Democratic appointees are firmly in control, with 16 judges, compared to six appointed by Republicans. . . .

The rest of the piece is available here.

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