President Biden last week named 11 people he plans to nominate to serve on federal courts, more than any recent president this early in his term. Nine are women, three are Black women and one would become the country’s first Muslim federal judge.
I spoke to Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent and the author of a book about Trump-era fights over the judiciary, about why Biden is rushing to shape the courts and how judges became so central to American politics. Our conversation has been condensed.
Ian: Donald Trump’s judicial appointments were a big part of his presidency, and now Biden seems to be making filling vacancies a priority. Why have the courts become so important?
Carl: Because the courts are deciding our political fights now. Climate change, voting rights, immigration, redistricting: Because the legislative branch is so stuck, the courts are getting to be the arbiters. They’ve been amplified as a political issue because of their increased importance in deciding big, cutting-edge issues.
Why is Biden in such a hurry?
Democrats are operating under the assumption that they have only two years. They could easily lose the Senate next year, and then they’d have to get judicial nominees that Republicans would be willing to vote for. So I think we’re going to see a big push from Biden.
So far, what distinguishes Biden’s nominees from his predecessors’?
Federal judicial nominees have typically been somebody from the U.S. attorney’s office, a local prosecutor or a partner in a law firm. But after Trump <a
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