Trump faces obstacles in bid to re-shape key US courts

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s effort to reshape influential U.S. courts by stocking them with conservative judges faces at least one significant impediment: some of the courts best placed to thwart his agenda have liberal majorities that are likely to stay in place in the short-term.

Those courts, including an influential Washington appeals court and two appellate courts that ruled against Trump in cases involving his travel ban, all had an influx of fresh liberal blood under President Barack Obama.

“Trump is not going to be able to make any significant dents into the Democrats’ control of those three (appellate) circuits,” said Arthur Hellman, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

The federal appeals courts, divided into 11 geographic regions plus two based in the District of Columbia, often have the final say in major legal disputes. The conservative-leaning US Supreme Court, which now includes Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, can overrule appeals court decisions, but hears only a small number of cases, which leaves lower court rulings in place most of the time.

The appeals courts can shape the interpretation of such issues as abortion, religious freedom, voting rights and race. Appellate court judges serve lifetime terms, and so far Trump’s opportunities to appoint new ones have been mostly limited to courts that already lean conservative. — Reuters.

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