These new and soon-to-be judges will have a significant impact on the median political alignment of the 9th Circuit’s judicial compliment, and will likely make a difference in at least three ways: First, because the 9th Circuit decides many appeals in three-judge panels comprised of both active judges and older, often part-time judges — a group of 18 “senior” judges split 9-9 between Republican and Democratic appointees — these numbers mean any given panel will have a nearly even chance to draw a majority of Republican-appointed judges as Democrat-appointed ones. That means the 9th Circuit will boast a political balance not seen in decades, at least since President Jimmy Carter and a post-Watergate Democratic congressional majority added 10 judgeships to the court in the late 1970s.
Second, it means that en banc panels, which are 11-member super-panels typically made up of randomly selected active judges, have a much greater chance of seating a conservative majority than before Trump took office. En banc panels have extraordinary power to reshape the circuit’s law because they can redecide three-judge panel decisions and even overrule the circuit’s own past precedent.
Third, Trump’s group of nominees includes no slouches. They’re all experienced practitioners with stellar credentials. Accordingly, once fully staffed, the court’s conservative wing will be newly empowered with sharp, young minds capable of steering the law in a more conservative direction over time.