Why Courts Matter

If you think that the only Trump court appointments to worry about are to the Supreme Court…think again! Not to demean the importance of the Supremes by any means, but the Supreme Court hears only about 100 cases each year. The lower federal courts consist of 12 Circuits (Illinois is part of the 7th) with 179 appointed Circuit judicial seats and 686 District judicial seats. All (let me repeat that, ALL) of these judicial seats, when there is a vacancy, are presidential nominations with a hearing and vote in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and then a floor vote by the full Senate. And, like the nine justices of the Supreme Court, these judges also hold lifetime appointments. 

So… If the Supreme Court is determining about 100 cases a year, these lower federal courts are where the majority of legal decisions that impact our everyday lives are being made. This is where cases on fair wages, reproductive justice, immigrant and refugee rights, workplace discrimination and more are being determined and becoming the law of the land. The judges who are nominated and appointed to serve in these positions matter. Their backgrounds matter. Their politics matter. It matters if they have written that their faith has a higher priority for them than the Constitution. It matters if nominees have a record of ignoring legal precedence. It matters if there is no diversity (including gender, sexual preference, legal experience and such) among nominees). It matters if the President is not consulting with the Senators from the states that will be served by the judges he is nominating to get their input and consent to his choices (he is not). And it matters that the Senate Committee on the Judiciary is now ignoring years of bipartisan cooperation and precedence in holding hearings for nominees who do not have the approval of both Senators from the states where they will serve (they are). All this should make you angry… and worried.

As the Trump administration considers what its most lasting legacy will be, it will not be found in tweets. It will be in the federal judicial appointments of judges who will hold their seats for perhaps as long as 40 years. They will be making decisions for our grandchildren. So… pay attention to the federal courts… and call our Senators and tell them you care about who serves on them. And tell your friends in other states to do the same. With enough loud voices, we can slow the process down and, perhaps even get some qualified, unbiased people nominated to these lifetime seats. Remember… Courts matter!

Carole Levine
CWTA Membership Co-Chair
Chair, Courts Matter Illinois

Join us today in ensuring that “Equal Justice Under Law” remains the abiding principle of our judicial system. Contact us at courtsmatterillinois@gmail.comto join the Courts Matter Illinois Coalition, either as an individual or organization.

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