Analysis of Judicial appointments by age and President: Is Obama missing an opportunity?
President Obama has generally nominated old former Clinton appointees to the US Circuit courts. I have compiled an excel file of all 161 active US Circuit judges of the 179 authorized judgeships at the Circuit level. This has enabled me to generate the average age of active judges by each contemporary President (from Ford to Obama).
The average year of birth for our modern Presidents is follows:
Ford 1929 Carter 1933.2 Reagan 1941 GHW Bush 1942.6 Clinton 1945.7 GW Bush 1953.6 Obama 1952.9
The average age (rounded):
Ford 81 Carter 77 Reagan 69 GHW Bush 67 Clinton 64 GW Bush 56 Obama 58
While the difference between Bush Jr and Obama is small, you will notice that for the first time in modern history a more contemporary President has older appointees than the previous administration:
Many including President Clinton have suggested that Obama pay more attention to age when nominating federal judges:
"I'd like to see him put someone in there, late 40s, early 50s, on the court, and someone with a lot of energy for the job," the 63-year-old Clinton told ABC's "This Week" when asked about President Obama's upcoming replacement of Justice John Paul Stevens.
Liberal commentators have also been critical of Obama for this in the past:
"For years, Republicans have been nominating sharp young conservatives to the lower federal courts. Now, rather than looking for young legal talent of its own, a Democratic administration seems to be favoring older nominees. In our view, this is a major mistake." -David Fontana and Micah Schwartzman, New Republic, July 17th 2009.
Recently there have been indications that this trend may be changing. On February 24, 2010 Obama nominated 39 year old Goodwin Liu to the 9th Circuit. If confirmed and added to the above average his presence on the list would bring Obama's active judge age to 55 years old or under that of the previous President. It is too early to tell if Obama will miss his opportunity to have a significant impact for decades to come by nominating young bright legal minds like Goodwin Liu, but so far his appointments have been less than stellar in this area.
Let's wait a little longer before we start piling on him for appointing all these Methuselah's to the appellate bench.
Anyway, it's probably Rahm Emanuel advising him to appoint older judges because they are generally more "centrist" and republicans will like them better, plus of course they're older and will croak sooner so Rahm's buddies can have a crack at appointing their replacements.
He has only been in office for a bit more than a year. Comparing the average birth year of his judges with the average birth year of Shrub's judges isn't really fair. Once we get to the end of the first term, it might be time to take a look at that figure again.
Besides, I'd bet all of his appointees had been bottled up during the Bush years, they wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting nominated for anything during those two awful terms. There were certainly some deserving judges who needed to be elevated to higher courts in their career paths.
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