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Media Accuses Trump of Packing Courts With Unqualified Picks

President Trump broke a record [1] on Wednesday when his 23rd appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals was approved.

Andrew Oldham, a legal adviser to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, was approved by a 50-49 party-line vote to take a seat vacated on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans by Edward Prado following Prado’s appointment to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina.

His confirmation breaks the record [1], held by President George H.W. Bush, of 22 Appeals Court judges approved in the first two years of a term.

Reports on Oldham’s confirmation focused on three themes – That Republicans are moving too fast to pack courts with Trump nominees, that this will be Trump’s defining legacy and that Oldham is an extremist unfit for the job.

Salon’s piece [2] on the Oldham confirmation, which referred to Oldham as “a far-right radical,” quoted Kristine Lucius of left-leaning Alliance for Justice: “Mitch McConnell kept hundreds of vacant judicial seats open under President Obama so Senate Republicans could fill those seats. Under McConnell and Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, the record-breaking pace of hearings, committee votes and floor votes, and utter disregard for Senate norms and traditions on nominees, has been shameful.”

Lucius failed to mention – and Salon’s Amanda Marcotte did not clarify – the rules by which the Senate confirms judges were rewritten dramatically by former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). [3]

 Salon concluded [2] that the approval will not matter because it will not slow the process of approving judges.

“This power to dismantle social progress and short-circuit equal rights is exactly why Republicans are willing to overlook anything Trump does, no matter how vile,” it wrote.

The Houston Chronicle’s story [1] on its home-state official rising to the Appeals Court said the Trump administration’s success with judicial appointees enables an otherwise-failed administration to claim successes.

“In light of the past year’s policy setbacks on immigration, sanctuary cities and repealing Obamacare, Trump’s focus on appeals court vacancies has become a hallmark of his presidency,” wrote the Chronicle [1].

The Chronicle piece implied the president’s selections represent racism.

It reported that the head of a liberal legal organization “and other anti-Trump court watchers have accused Trump of outsourcing his judicial preferences to conservative legal groups like the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, producing a crop of nominees that has been overwhelmingly white and male.”

HuffPost tried to attack Oldham’s legal judgment.

“The Senate voted on Wednesday to confirm another one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees, Andrew Oldham, despite more than 200 civil rights groups opposing him over his record of trying to restrict voting and civil rights,” its story began.  

“Oldham, a former Texas deputy solicitor general who now serves as general counsel to Gov. Greg Abbott ®, in 2013 defending the state’s voter photo ID law, SB 14, which a federal judge later struck down as an ‘unconstitutional poll tax.’”

HuffPost failed to inform readers of the context.

A district court judge struck down [4] the tax because of a “pattern of conduct unexplainable on grounds other than the race factor.”

The Texas legislature responded by passing SB 5, which addressed the provisions the judge cited. She again struck it down, but the Appeals Court reversed her decision [4], saying the lower court had “abused its discretion.”

HuffPost closed with [5] a bleak prediction of the American judiciary’s future.

“What will the nation’s courts look like for years after Trump has left the White House and Republicans have lost their Senate majority? Even whiter, even more male, and repopulated with young, conservative judges with records of being anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ and hostile to voting rights.”