This past Friday, President Trump signed an executive order suspending immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. Around 9:00 p.m. Saturday, federal judge Ann Donnelly blocked much of the order. Judge Donnelly’s decision sparked a furious backlash among Trump supporters, some of whom temporarily rewrote her Wikipedia page, calling her an Islamist sympathizer. However, more importantly, the order, along with three others issued shortly after, gave a lifeline to lawful immigrants left stranded. It was a stark reminder of how important judges can be.
The president’s ability to appoint federal judges is one of his most enduring powers. Years after he leaves office, the judges President Trump has appointed will continue to hear cases and influence the law. For example, Judge Andrew Hanen, appointed by President George W. Bush, halted President Obama’s DAPA program in 2015. Similarly, Donnelly, appointed by Obama, was able to stay President Trump’s orders.
None of this makes judges political actors. Rather, lifetime appointments serve to insulate federal judges from political pressure and allow them to make unpopular decisions. In 1957, Judge Ronald Davies refused to order federal troops out of Arkansas, allowing them to desegregate Little Rock schools. In 2015, Judge Callie Granade struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. History is replete with such examples of federal judges standing up for the Constitution, even when political pressures dictate otherwise.
In less than twelve hours, President Trump will announce his nominee to serve as Associate Justice for the Supreme Court. It will be the first of hundreds of names he will send to the Senate to fill judicial vacancies across the country. Once confirmed, these judges will reshape the law over the next three decades. It is essential that Trump names judges whose fealty is to the Constitution and the rule of law, rather than to a political party or figure. It is equally important for citizens to follow the process and weigh in. After all, if there is a takeaway from the last three days, it is that judges matter.
This post is cross-posted from The Vetting Room.
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more information
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place