Federal appellate and district courts are enormously important in our legal system. More than 99 percent of federal cases are never decided by the Supreme Court and are resolved at the final stage by these other federal courts. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that these courts might be important, but Democratic presidents cannot get their nominees confirmed to these courts.
Since December 2012, when President Barack Obama started the nominations work of his second term, that narrative needs to be dramatically changed. In his first term, Obama had fewer than than four judges confirmed every month. Since December 2012, that rate approaches five judges a month, an increase of nearly 30 percent. During the similar period in his second term, President Bill Clinton saw a roughly 25 percent drop in the number of his nominees successfully confirmed.
Over the course of his entire presidency, Obama has succeeded in having more federal judges confirmed than did President George W. Bush, who put a lot of work into transforming the federal courts. When President Bush left office, ten of the 13 federal appellate courts had a majority of judges nominated by Republican presidents, two had an equal ratio of Republican and Democratic nominees, and one had a majority of judges nominated by Democratic presidents. Now, nine have a majority of judges nominated by Democratic presidents, while four have a majority of judges nominated by Republican presidents.