Trump's Lower-Court Judges and Religion: An Initial Appraisal

43 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2023 Last revised: 28 Jun 2023

See all articles by Stephen J. Choi

Stephen J. Choi

New York University School of Law

Mitu Gulati

University of Virginia School of Law

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: June 22, 2023

Abstract

It is widely believed that President Donald Trump’s judicial appointments reflected a strategy of appeasing evangelical Christians and other religious groups that favored a more conservative, Christian judiciary, and that in pursuing this strategy Trump sacrificed quality. We explore evidence for this theory by examining the biographies and credentials of Trump’s lower-court nominees and the voting records of his judicial appointments to the circuit courts in free exercise cases. We find that Trump’s appointments to the lower courts have stronger or more numerous religious affiliations and are affiliated with the Federalist Society and the National Rifle Association at unusually high rates but are no less well credentialed than other judges are. We also find that Trump’s appointments to the circuit court more frequently vote in favor of Christian plaintiffs, and less frequently vote in favor of Muslim plaintiffs, in free exercise cases than judges appointed by other Republican presidents and by Democratic presidents.

Keywords: Trump's judges, free exercise, judicial qualifications

JEL Classification: K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Choi, Stephen J. and Gulati, Mitu and Posner, Eric A., Trump's Lower-Court Judges and Religion: An Initial Appraisal (June 22, 2023). Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2023-49, Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2023-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4488397 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4488397

Stephen J. Choi (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Mitu Gulati

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0425 (Phone)
773-702-0730 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/posner-e/

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