Trump's Dangerous Judicial Legacy
26 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 13, 2019
Reviewing statistical data on the composition of the federal judiciary over the last forty plus years, this paper describes what appears to be President Trump’s deliberate effort to reverse a decades-long trend by his presidential predecessors to diversify the federal judiciary. It then imagines both the motivations for and consequences of this effort. The longstanding commitment to increasing judicial diversity that preceded President Trump reflects a tacit, and at times even explicit, acknowledgement by his presidential predecessors that the legitimacy of our justice system depends on a diverse judiciary. By contrast, Trump’s judicial appointments reveal an increasingly evident ambition to “whitewash” America that has emerged from his larger rhetorical commitment to “Make America Great Again.” Combining the statistical data on the rapidly shifting demography of the federal judiciary under President Trump with insights from the scholarly literature on theories of procedural justice and representative bureaucracy, which posit that the diversity of judges matters to citizens’ perceptions of justice as well as to judicial accountability to minority citizens’ interests, this paper suggests that President Trump’s “whitewashing” of the federal judiciary will have grave consequences for the legitimacy and effective functioning of our courts on behalf of an increasingly diverse citizenry.
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