McConnell’s Circuit Court Confirmation Blitz: Things to Know

The gold standard of excellence for more than 80 years, The United States Law Week® is the most authoritative way to keep up with important cases and other legal developments nationwide, in all...

By Patrick L. Gregory

The Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Seventh Circuit Oct. 31 and Joan Larsen to the Sixth Circuit Nov. 1, two of President Donald Trump’s nominees to judgeships on the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Two more are on deck for a vote this week. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said it’s the first time in his memory that the Senate has confirmed four circuit court nominees in a week.

  • Barrett, now the newest judge on the Seventh Circuit, is a law professor and has written extensively about stare decisis, the legal principle that judges should respect precedent. She clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, a fellow devout Catholic. Her faith was a lightning rod at her confirmation hearing. The Seventh Circuit has five active judges appointed by Republican presidents, two appointed by Democratic presidents, and three vacancies.
  •  Third Circuit nominee, law professor and former federal prosecutor Stephanos Bibaswrote in 2015 that over-incarceration wasn’t due to racism in the “war on drugs” but rather to an increase in violent and property crimes. In order to strengthen families, prisoners “should meet with their families often” and “be incarcerated as close to home as possible,” he said. He clerked for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The Third Circuit has seven active judges appointed by Democratic presidents, four appointed by Republican presidents, and three vacancies.
  •  Tenth Circuit nominee and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid dissented from a 2015 ruling that a taxpayer-funded scholarship program violated a state ban on public funding of religion. She would fill the Tenth Circuit’s sole vacancy left by now-Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. Eid clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. The Tenth Circuit has seven active judges appointed by Democratic presidents and four appointed by Republican presidents.
  •  The newest judge on the Sixth Circuit, Joan Larsen, may also be a frontrunner among Trump’s next potential Supreme Court nominees. For now, she is the third Trump-nominated judge on the Sixth Circuit, after Judges Amul Thapar and John K. Bush. Larsen clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia. The Sixth Circuit has 11 active judges appointed by Republican presidents and five appointed by Democratic presidents. The court has no vacancies, but Larsen will replace Judge David W. McKeague, who has said he will assume senior status when his successor is confirmed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request U.S. Law Week