USA Today reported yesterday that 92 percent of the people President Trump has nominated to federal judgeships so far in his term are white, the least diverse set of judicial nominees since Ronald Reagan, even though “minority enrollment in law schools has nearly tripled” since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Trump’s 87 federal judicial nominees include just one African American, one Latino and five Asian Americans, a stark contrast to President Obama’s efforts to increase diversity on the federal bench.
Carrie Severino, the chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, which was the chief group working to block President Obama’s judicial nominees and to promote Trump’s, told USA Today that Trump’s nominees are so overwhelmingly white because he “isn’t looking for people to fit a quota”:
Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, which has promoted and applauded Trump’s nominees, says quality is more important than quotas.
“President Trump isn’t looking for people to fit a quota. He’s looking for people with a principled judicial philosophy,” she says. “The fundamental question is making sure we have judges who are going to be faithful to the Constitution.”
The implication that trying to increase diversity on the federal bench would somehow affect the quality of nominees is something that we saw from a few of Severino’s allies in the conservative legal movement during Obama’s presidency. After Obama nominated an openly gay man for a judgeship in New York, Concerned Women for America accused Democrats of imposing “homosexual quotas” on the judiciary. Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice told the Washington Post in 2013 that the Obama administration might have been “lowering their standards” to pick more non-white nominees.
Of course, the irony in this is that if anyone is lowering the standards of judicial nominees, it’s Trump. Four of his judicial nominees—all of them white—have been deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, an unusually high number. One of those nominees, Brett Talley, a blogger who had never tried a case was forced to withdraw from consideration after a public outcry. Another nominee, Matthew Petersen, withdrew from consideration after a video of him stumbling over basic legal questions during his confirmation hearing went viral.