MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The Trump administration has reached an important milestone. With a boost from the Republican-led Senate, President Trump has now confirmed 200 judges. Those judges serve for life, so it's a legacy that could extend for a generation. NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson reports.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: On the Senate floor last week, as lawmakers prepared to vote on yet another judge nominee, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a victory lap.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MITCH MCCONNELL: When we depart this chamber today, there will not be a single circuit court vacancy anywhere in the nation for the first time in at least 40 years.
JOHNSON: McConnell has been advancing President Trump's judge picks with single-minded focus.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MCCONNELL: It's a victory for the rule of law and for the Constitution.
JOHNSON: Conservative advocate Carrie Severino is thrilled.
CARRIE SEVERINO: Filling all of these circuit seats is an unmitigated success - no downside to that. Let's, as leader McConnell has said, leave no vacancy behind.
JOHNSON: Severino leads the Judicial Crisis Network. It pushes for the confirmation of Trump nominees.
SEVERINO: When you look particular at his appellate nominees - you know, Obama, in eight years, had 55 appellate nominees confirmed. Trump, in only four years, has already had 53.
JOHNSON: Chris Kang vetted judge candidates during the Obama years. He says there's a reason for that startling number. It's Republicans' stonewalling of the previous president, says Kang.
CHRIS KANG: McConnell confirmed the fewest judges since President Truman during President Obama's last two years in office, so the reason that Donald Trump has 200 judgeships to fill in the first place is because McConnell obstructed.
JOHNSON: Aside from the sheer numbers of Trump judges, there's the longevity. Many of the Trump nominees are in their 30s and 40s - not anywhere near retirement age. Again, Chris Kang.
KANG: Even if Donald Trump is gone in January, these judges are going to be ruling for decades to come.
JOHNSON: And they'll be ruling in cases that matter - abortion access, climate change, voting rights and more. Something else stands out about the Trump judge picks. Vanita Gupta leads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
VANITA GUPTA: They are largely white and male. It is an astonishing lack of representation.
JOHNSON: Nearly 7 in 10 of the Trump judges are white men. Just 28 of the 200 are people of color.
GUPTA: You end up with a judiciary that is really out of step with where the country is as a whole because it takes a fair amount of work, actually, to end up with those statistics.
JOHNSON: But Trump allies say some of the nominees do represent diverse backgrounds. Judge Amy Coney Barrett is the mother of seven children, Judge Don Willett was raised by his single mom in a trailer park, and Judge Jim Ho is the son of immigrants from Taiwan. All three of them could appear on President Trump's short list for the next Supreme Court vacancy. The president says he'll publish a new list by September, before the election. Candidate Trump adopted a similar approach four years ago to signal that Republican voters could trust him. Things worked well back then, says Carrie Severino. She says Trump's judges have been different. They're bolder but not in a bad way.
SEVERINO: They're not simply trying to keep their heads down and become the blank slate that may have been the ideal nominee in a prior Republican administration, someone who really has no track record whatsoever. But instead, these nominees are people who are willing to stand up for what they know is right.
JOHNSON: For Democrats like Chris Kang, that's not something to celebrate.
KANG: These are far more extreme judges than even President George W. Bush put on the bench, and we're moving in the wrong direction.
JOHNSON: Kang says he has no doubt if more judge vacancies emerge later this year, Trump and McConnell will race to fill them, underscoring how important judges are to Republican officeholders and the people who vote for them. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF INTERPOL SONG, "UNTITLED")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.