Obama’s Appeals Judges Average Four Years Older Than Bush’s

Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, attorney Mark Greenbaum paints a depressing picture of President Obama’s record on judicial nominations, noting — among other things — that Presidents Clinton and Obama nominees tend to be quite a bit older than President George W.  Bush’s:

As of mid-May, Obama had made 30 nominations to the circuit courts. Of those, just seven were age 50 or younger, and the average age of all his nominees was 54. By way of comparison, Bush had made 43 nominations to the appeals courts at a similar point in his presidency. And 21 of them were 50 or under leading to an average age of just 50 overall. […]

Republicans have had a simple strategy when it comes to judicial appointments: go young. That Bush tapped so many young judges for such high posts mirrored similar moves by both his father and Ronald Reagan who installed dozens of judges in their early 40s and even their 30s. Democrats have gone in the other direction, both under Obama, as well as Clinton, whose circuit appointees averaged 53 years old.

The four year gap between Obama’s average judge and Bush’s may not seem like a lot, but it is enough to significantly tilt the bench towards Republicans over time. If the average judge were to retire at age 70, this means that Bush’s judges will each serve 25 percent longer than Obama’s.

And these numbers underestimate the impact a handful of exceptionally young judges can have. Justice Thomas was only 41 when he first became a judge. The first President Bush nominated Chief Justice Roberts to the D.C. Circuit when Roberts was only 37. Such youthful nominees can be viable Supreme Court candidates for a president elected as must as fifteen years later. None of Obama’s presently confirmed appellate judges, by contrast, will be a viable Supreme Court nominee in 2026.