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Federal Judges

Conservative judges now fill the country’s courts — and their rulings could restrict rights and freedoms for generations.

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Why It Matters

  • U.S. presidents have enormous power in the federal judge selection process. The president nominates all federal judges, and the Senate confirms them. 

  • Trump inherited over 100 open judgeships across the country when he took office, and even more vacancies have opened up since. Trump has packed federal courts with judges who have track records of restricting reproductive rights and overall health care access.

  • For the Supreme Court, Trump delivered on his promise to nominate justices who could overturn Roe v. Wade — the case that recognized the right to access safe, legal abortion. Trump’s appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have long records of opposing abortion, and they are part of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.

Key Players

Donald Trump

President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
Mike Pence

Vice President of the United States

Elected to Office: 11-8-2016
Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Resigned: 11-07-2018
William Barr

U.S. Attorney General (DOJ)

Nominated by Trump: 1-3-2019
Neomi Rao

U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Judge; Former Administrator at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OMB)

Nominated by Trump to OMB: 4-7-2017

How We Got Here & Where We're Headed


  • What to expect next
    These judges’ rulings could restrict rights for generations, including the right to access abortion
  • 9-9-2019
    Trump nominates “ethnonationalist” Steven Manashi to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
  • 7-8-2019 
    Trump nominates Lee Philip Rudofsky to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas

  • 6-19-2019
    Senate confirms Matthew Kacsmaryk to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas
  • 1-16-2019 
    Trump nominates conservative Judge Michael Liburdi to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona
  • 11-13-2018
    Trump nominates Neomi Rao to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
  • 10-6-2018
    Senate confirms Kavanaugh to Supreme Court amid nationwide uproar over Christine Blasey Ford’s credible report that he sexually assaulted her
  • 7-9-2018 
    Trump nominates conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, sparks protest
  • 4-6-2018
    Senate confirms Gorsuch with a “nuclear option” change in the process
View more +
  • 1-23-2018
    Trump nominates conservative judges Wendy Vitter to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and Michael Truncale to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • 10-2-2017
    Trump nominates Stuart Kyle Duncan — who has a long record of restricting reproductive rights, including arguing against access to birth control and safe, legal abortion — to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit
  • 8-3-2017
    Trump nominates conservative Judge Leonard Steven Grasz to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
  • 5-8-2017
    Trump nominates conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett — who has voiced opposition to Roe v. Wade — to U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
  • 5-8-2017
    Trump nominates conservative Judge John K. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • 1-31-2017 
    Trump nominates conservative Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, sparks protest



“[Trump’s judicial nominees] turn the clock back on years of work and effort that went into promoting judicial diversity.”

Reproductive Rights Are at Risk

As of August 2019, Trump has filled 152 lifetime seats in America’s courts and has over 40 pending nominees. Trump set a record for confirming the most federal appeals judges in a president’s first year.  At this point, nearly one in four federal appeals court judges and one in seven district court judges are Trump nominees.

Because federal judges across the United States hold lifetime appointments, the individuals who sit on the courts will determine the course of American history — and the course of millions of people’s lives. His picks are relatively young, so they’ll likely spend a long time on the bench. Their records indicate that reproductive rights and other vital protections are at serious risk.

During the 2019 state legislative sessions, more than 290 bills restricting abortion have been filed in 45 states. Should any of this legislation become law, it is likely that Trump-nominated federal judges will be the ones who decide the fate of women’s health and lives in these states.  

What’s more, five states have passed six-week abortion bans — and legal cases on these bans (as well as cases on other laws affecting reproductive rights) are expected to work their way up to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court justices are the final safeguard for people’s most basic rights and freedoms. Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch’s seats on the Supreme Court stand to sway the Court’s balance away from voting rights, access to health insurance, and the constitutional right to abortion, among others.

Background on Federal Judges

Trump’s Judges are Overwhelmingly White and Male

Overall, 70% of Trump's judicial appointees are white men. The breakdown: 86% of Trump's confirmed picks for appeals courts and 90% for districts courts are white; 80% of Trump's confirmed picks for appeals courts and 74% for district courts are men.

Huffington Post
Anti-Abortion Groups Celebrated Kavanaugh’s Confirmation

Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court amid widespread protest from women's rights advocates. Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups celebrated Kavanaugh’s confirmation as an opportunity to roll back abortion access and reproductive rights.

New York Magazine
Gorsuch’s Record on Health, Immigration, Voting Rights

Neil Gorsuch has a history of blocking reproductive rights and health care access — even basic access to birth control. He was also a deciding vote in the Supreme Court’s decisions to uphold the discriminatory Muslim ban, strip people of their right to vote, weaken workers’ rights, and empower fake women’s health centers.

Rewire News
ABA Rated Record Number of Judges as Unqualified

As of September 2019, seven of Trump’s nominees have been rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. That includes federal appeals court appointee Leonard Steven Grasz, who’s spent his career restricting reproductive and LGBTQ rights.

Daily Beast
Another Anti-Birth Control Federal Judge

Federal judge appointee Stuart Kyle Duncan has a long record of restricting reproductive rights, including arguing against access to birth control and safe, legal abortion.

Planned Parenthood Action Blog
Fulfilling a Promise to Appoint Anti-Abortion Justices

Trump said he’d only appoint biased justices who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade and gut the Affordable Care Act. Even though 72% of voters oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court serves as an invitation for states to pass new restrictions on reproductive rights — including abortion bans that fly in the face of Roe v. Wade and could reach the Supreme Court. Currently, at least 20 states are prepared to ban access to abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Planned Parenthood: Abortion Access Report
Kavanaugh’s Record on Abortion, Birth Control

Kavanaugh’s previous opinions would have blocked access to birth control and safe, legal abortion. In February 2019, he dissented on halting a Louisiana law that would eliminate abortion access at all but one health center in the state. In 2017, he sided with the Trump administration in blocking a young, undocumented woman from access to abortion. In 2015, he stated that employers should be allowed to deny their employees no-copay birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Restricting Rights Would Harm People of Color

Kavanaugh and Gorsuch will almost certainly have the chance to rule on important issues like affirmative action, birth control, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and LGBTQ rights. These rulings could deeply harm millions of people, including people of color, who experience disparities because of racist and discriminatory policies.

Hello Beautiful
Trump Nominating Anti-LGBTQ Judges

Nearly one-third of Trump’s judicial nominees are overtly hostile to LGBTQ rights. That includes John Kenneth Bush, who was confirmed even though he’s publicly disparaged LGBTQ rights and used homophobic slurs.


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