DC Circuit judge announces retirement, giving Trump another vacancy to fill

Since he took office in early 2017, President Donald Trump has made his mark on the federal judiciary, appointing — and confirming — what the White House has called a “historic number” of judges whose conservative views could shape the court system for decades. And now, it looks like the president is about to add one more.

The Hill reported Thursday that 65-year-old Judge Thomas Griffith has announced he will be retiring in September after serving 15 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. His departure brings with it Trump’s third chance to fill a D.C. Circuit Court seat.

Griffith and Trump

An appointee of President George W. Bush, Griffith has had a mixed record when it comes to dealing with the Trump administration, The Hill reported. Late last month, he was part of a 2–1 majority that ruled congressional Democrats could not enforce a subpoena compelling former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify in their impeachment inquiry.

That ruling overturned a lower court’s order for McGahn to comply.

“If we order McGahn to testify, what happens next? McGahn, compelled to appear, asserts executive privilege in response to the Committee’s questions,” Griffith wrote of the decision at the time, according to Fox News. “The Committee finds those assertions baseless. In that case, the Committee assures us, it would come right back to court to make McGahn talk.

“The walk from the Capitol to our courthouse is a short one,” the judge added, predicting, “If we resolve this case today, we can expect Congress’s lawyers to make the trip often.”

Clinton-appointed Judge Judith Rogers voiced her disagreement with that rationale at the time, according to BuzzFeed News, arguing in her dissent that the high court’s decision “removes any incentive for the Executive Branch to engage in the negotiation process seeking accommodation, all but assures future [p]residential stonewalling of Congress, and further impairs the House’s ability to perform its constitutional duties.”

But while Griffith may have opposed Rogers and other liberal-leaning judges on that ruling, he hasn’t always taken Trump’s side. The judge joined his Democrat-appointed colleagues in a November 2019 decision against reconsidering “a ruling that paved the way for [House] Democrats to obtain [Trump’s] financial records,” The Hill reported.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to address that issue this month, The Hill noted.

Reshaping the courts

According to Vox, polling data showed judicial appointments were an important issue for Republican voters in the 2016 presidential election — and Trump, for his part, hasn’t shied away from leaving his impact on the courts.

“The judges appointed by President Trump will make a lasting impact on the courts for decades to come,” the White House said in a November statement.

The statement added: “President Trump is fulfilling his promise to appoint judges who will protect and honor the Constitution and the rule of law.”

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