Did Obama and Patrick Leahy allow the GOP to stack the 5th circuit court of appeals

I am a democrat, but I am very cynical about them. So when I hear news about the dems being incompetent and inept I tend to believe it because it validates my pre-existing beliefs.

I heard that because of Patrick Leahy being the head of the Judiciary committee in the senate kept up the tradition of blue slips, which allows a senator from a state to block a judicial nominee for that state. So basically if a judge was going to be appointed to Montana, a Montana senator from either party could veto the selection.

I guess I could understand how Patrick Leahy comes from a time when bipartisanship and putting country before party existed, and I guess I can understand his desire to uphold norms, but anyone who pays attention to modern politics knew the GOP was going to abolish this rule once they controlled both the senate and the presidency. Which is exactly what they did.

Anyway, the ACA ruling occurred in Texas, which is overseen by the 5th circuit court of appeals. According to wikipedia, Obama only put 3 justices on the 5th circuit court, while Trump put 5 justices there (despite Obama having the presidency & senate for 6 years, vs Trump only having then for 2 so far). I’ve heard about this issue before, but the ACA being in the news brought it back up because I heard that Leahy allowed the GOP senators from TX to keep the seats open, then once Trump was in power he stacked the court.

Which brings me back to my question. Did Obama, Leahy and the dems basically allow the GOP to keep court seats open even when the dems controlled the senate, then let the GOP pack the courts once the GOP controlled the senate & presidency?

If so, this could spell bad news for the ACA law since it is going to go to appeal.

Like I said, I’m very cynical about the democrats so because of that, I’m naturally inclined to believe what I hear when they are portrayed as incompetent and inept. So thats why I’m asking other people for verification if this is what actually happened since my own internal biases are going to cloud my judgment.

Did the democrats try to play by the rules while the GOP broke those same rules, and now as a result the 5th circuit appeals court could uphold the decision to abolish the ACA?

To answer your question, you would need to know when various seats eventually filled by Pres. Trump opened up. Remember: the last two years of the Obama Administration, the Senate was controlled by the Republicans, so no one inimical to Republican interests was going to be able to be approved.

To the extent that the Senate during 2009 to 2015 under Democratic control allowed blue slip manipulation to keep seats open on the 5th Circuit, then yes, you are correct. Democrats played within the rules, because, you know, generally speaking, that was what they believed they should do. As it was, simply eliminating the filibuster on certain nominations caused enough consternation that I doubt Harry Reid wanted to take any further, controversial steps.

And it wasn’t Patrick Leahy who had final say anyway; it would have been Harry Reid.

Obama still faced the legislative filibuster for most of the time that Democrats controlled the Senate during his administration. Harry Reid employed the nuclear option to change the rules in late November of 2013. Obama’s period with a majority in the Senate only lasted until Jan 2015. He had a little over 13 months and got one judges through in that time. His two other appointments were with both the legislative filibuster and blue slip system in place. There’s a real possibility of error if you assign all carried over vacancies to only one of the two possible causes.

Digging a little deeper on your wiki cite. There are 17 active judges on the court. Eight were appointed by Obama or Trump. The slight majority of judges, nine of seventeen, predates both Obama and the passage of ACA.

Digging through the seats and when they were replaced it looks like only one vacancy clearly got carried over. Seat 22 was Emilio Garza who moved to senior status in 2012. Seat 10 was vacated under Obama but on Dec 31, 2016. With three weeks left in Obama’s term and the Senate out of session that being carried over isn’t all that noteowrthy. Three of Trump’s appointments were retirements that happened after he was sworn in.

Only Seat 22 fits your narrative as a potential blue slip issue. Four are pretty clearly just the timing of when the vacancies happened, not Leahy’s fault. The swing that can potentially be because of blue slips seems to be about 6% of the court, rounding up.

Yes but did those 5 judges that Trump appointed all retire after January 2015?