In eight years, a President can appoint more than a third of all federal judges.
What do Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have in common?
Each of them either appointed or — in the case of President Obama — is on track to appoint, approximately one-third of the almost 1,000 federal judges who serve on the federal district courts, courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court (See “Comparison Chart” below).
How Judicial Appointments Impact You
Most Americans will not directly engage the federal court system, so why should voters care about presidential appointments to the federal courts? Where do the actions of federal judges intersect with our lives?
Here are a few of the touch points where the federal courts impact the moral climate of our nation:
- The Definition of Marriage
- Taxpayer Funding of Abortion
- Our Country’s Loss of Religious Freedom
- Parental Rights in Education
- Privacy Issues
The Presidents who nominate federal judges, as well as the the U.S. Senators who confirm those nominees (or vote them down), determine, to a very large degree, how those issues could be decided. How? A nominee’s record can usually reveal a nominee’s “judicial philosophy.” That is, we can see in advance how they view and interpret the U.S. Constitution, as well as show they might decide a case involving marriage, religious freedom or abortion (see “Judges Decide Cultural Issues” below).
Of the current Supreme Court justices, five members are 65 or older (three of whom are older than 75), virtually guaranteeing the next president will appoint 3–4 new justices to lifetime positions.
Lower court federal judicial appointees can influence the shape of U.S. Constitutional law, as well. Many of their decisions are not accepted to be heard by the Supreme Court, and so become final decisions that can affect entire states or groups of states.
The U.S. Senate plays a major role when it comes to federal judges. According to the Constitution, the Senate is charged with giving “advice and consent” to the judges the President nominates. Senators are supposed to be the “checks and balance” against a President’s radical choices for judges.
Regarding state judges, it is the governor who nominates; however, one house of the legislature must usually confirm the appointment(s). For more information explaining how the process of federal judicial appointments works, please go here. Voters considering whether to vote and/or for whom to vote, should take into account the crucial role these elected officials play in appointment of judges.
Find out what types of judges your candidates prefer. Your state’s Family Policy Council can help answer this question for you.
According to a federal website, the following numbers represent the two-term (8 years) totals of the judicial appointments for Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama(to date).
President Bill Clinton: 379 Judges
President George W. Bush: 330 Judges
President Barack Obama: 329 Judges
(as of 11/1/16; updated total can be found here)
JUDGES DECIDE CULTURAL ISSUES
Elections ultimately determine which judges get appointed. Judges decide close, important cases. Notice how close the votes were in these cases:
MARRIAGE: Obergefell v. Hodges
In 2015, by a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the Constitution guarantees a right for people of the same sex to marry, thereby forcing all 50 states to comply with a radical new redefinition of marriage. Two years prior, in the case of U.S. v. Windsor, and by a similar vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court threw out the federal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman as discriminatory, which laid the legal groundwork for the 2015 Obergefell case redefining marriage.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
In 2014, by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that family-owned businesses do not forfeit their religious freedom as the price for engaging in commerce, contrary to the official position and argument of the U.S. Government.
PRAYER: Town of Greece v. Galloway
Also in 2014, by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that a prayer invocation before a town council meeting is permitted by the Constitution.
ABORTION: Gonzales v. Carhart
In 2007, by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the federal law banning partial birth abortions.
In each of those cases, the close votes evidenced the opposing judicial philosophies of the court at this time.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Judges matter; so, elections matter.
Elections impact the selection of judges. Increasingly, judges have taken it upon themselves to take social issues out of the hands of the people by redefining words and twisting constitutional provisions. Christians need to take the courts into consideration when contemplating how to vote in every election.
Make your vote count today.
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