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The real name of the judicial game is not the Supreme Court, but the federal judiciary

Earl O. Hutchinson | 10/27/2017, 6 a.m.

Appeals court judges take an oath to render the law fairly and impartially. They like to think that they do just that. There are few cases where an appeals court judge will take a position on a case that openly displays their partisan bias. Yet, they all hold political views, some very strong political views, and that inevitably colors how they interpret facts and testimony in a particular case. A judge can find a case law rationale for any ruling that he or she wants to make on a particular case that more often than not conforms to their political and ideological views.

GOP presidents egged on by conservative legal and public interest groups know this, Trump most of all. He did not need McConnell to remind him of the importance of stuffing the federal judiciary with as many hardline, strict constructionist judges as he can find. Democrats know this too. And since federal appeals court judges need not be confirmed with a 60-vote count, Democrats are outnumbered and outgunned with scarce weaponry in their arsenal to try and slow down the Trump and the GOP’s federal court packing scheme. Their one weapon, that has driven McConnell to rage and a determination to do something about it, is the use of the “blue slip.” With this, a Senator can block for a time the confirmation of a judicial nominee in their home state. If that weapon is taken away, then the floodgates are wide open for dozens of Trump’s picks and their almost certain swift confirmation.

They’d be there for life. They could do a total conservative remake of the federal bench. They would provide Trump or another GOP president with a large crop of hardline conservative legal guns to pick from for the next SCOTUS vacancy that fit the mold of his judicial heroes, Scalia and Thomas. It’s this scary prospect that makes the federal judiciary as important as the Supreme Court.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.