President Donald Trump has just named four new nominees for the district courts in Illinois and Pennsylvania.Quoting directly from the White House’s press release, Trump will be nominating the following:
- David W. Dugan of Illinois, to serve as Judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. David Dugan currently serves as a Circuit Judge for the 3rd Judicial Circuit, Madison County, Illinois. Prior to taking the bench in 2017, Judge Dugan was in private practice for more than 30 years, where his practice focused on personal injury and commercial litigation in both State and Federal Courts. Judge Dugan previously served as an Assistant States Attorney for Madison County, Illinois. Judge Dugan earned his B.A. from Eastern Illinois University and his J.D. from Valparaiso University School of Law.
- Iain D. Johnston of Illinois, to serve as Judge on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Iain Johnston currently serves as a United States Magistrate Judge on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Before taking the bench in 2013, Judge Johnston was a unit supervisor for the Office of the Illinois Attorney General and in private practice at Altheimer & Gray, Holland & Knight LLP, and Johnston Greene LLC. Judge Johnston also serves as an adjunct professor at UIC John Marshall Law School. Upon graduation from law school, Judge Johnston served as a law clerk to Judge Philip Godfrey Reinhard of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Johnston earned his B.S., cum laude, from Rockford College and his J.D., cum laude, from UIC John Marshall Law School.
- Franklin U. Valderrama of Illinois, to serve as Judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. Franklin Valderrama currently serves as an Associate Judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Judge Valderrama serves on the Illinois Supreme Court Rule Committee and the Supreme Court Committee on Illinois Evidence. Before taking the bench in 2007, Judge Valderrama was a partner at Sanchez, Daniels & Hoffman LLP, where his practice focused on trial litigation. Judge Valderrama has also served as an adjunct professor at UIC John Marshall Law School where he taught Pre-Trial Civil Litigation. Judge Valderrama earned his B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and his J.D. from The DePaul University College of Law.
- Christy Criswell Wiegand of Pennsylvania, to serve as Judge on the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Christy Wiegand is an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, where she prosecutes a variety of crimes, including large-scale drug trafficking, child exploitation, illegal firearms, and fraud. Previously, Ms. Wiegand served as the Deputy Chief of the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office. Before joining the United States Attorney’s Office in 2004, Ms. Wiegand served as a law clerk to Judge D. Brooks Smith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Upon graduation from law school, Ms. Wiegand was in private practice at Arnold & Porter LLP, in Washington, D.C., where her practice focused on antitrust matters. Ms. Wiegand earned her undergraduate degree, cum laude, from Princeton University, and her J.D., cum laude, from Cornell Law School, where she served as an Articles Editor on the Cornell Law Review.
President Trump closed out 2019 with a number of successes in the courts.
During the first week of December, eight judges were confirmed, one of which filled the longest-standing vacancy in the federal judiciary. With that brought the tally of Trump’s confirmed justices to 170, meaning that one out of every five federal judges was appointed by Trump. The breakdown (at the time) was 120 district court confirmations, forty-eight on the circuit courts, and two on the Supreme Court. In a rush before the New Year, the Senate confirmed another thirteen district court nominees, further increasing Trump’s representation in the courts.
Another visible victory has been Trump flipping the historically liberal U.S. Court of Appeals (circuit courts). One in four judges in the circuit courts have now been appointed by Trump. When Trump took office, nine of the nation’s thirteen circuit courts were dominated by Democrat appointees. That’s since shifted to a Republican majority on seven of them (which, at this pace, will presumably increase).
As I noted elsewhere, Trump’s mounting victories in the courts come despite unprecedented opposition from Democrats. In district courts, where appointments are permanent, nearly half of Trump’s appointees have been appointed with greater than 25% opposition, reflecting hyper-partisanship in the Trump era. Only 8% of Obama’s nominees faced such opposition, and only 4% of Bush’s. Seventy-five percent of Trump’s appointees for the U.S. Court of Appeals were confirmed with greater than 25% opposition, while only 9% of Obama’s judges were.
Historically, from 1979-1980, 97% of appointees to both aforementioned courts, and even the Supreme Court, had no opposition.