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Conservatives Eying Judicial Makeover

Judge's gavel

A group of conservative legal activists based in Washington, D.C. see the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch as the first step in reforming the U.S. judicial system under the administration of President Donald Trump. Heading up this effort, according to the New York Times, is Leonard A. Leo, who has taken a leave of absence as executive vice president of the Federalist Society to lead Gorsuch’s nomination process. Leo “sits at the nexus of an immensely influential but largely unseen network of conservative organizations, donors and lawyers who all share a common goal: Fill the federal courts with scores of judges who are committed to the narrow interpretation of the Constitution that they believe the founders intended,” the Times reports. Trump already has 124 judgeships to fill, including 19 vacancies on federal appeals courts. The efforts to remake the national judiciary is backed by major corporations like Google and Chevron, as well as business leaders like the Koch brothers, the family foundation of Richard Mellon Scaife, and the Mercer family. Members of conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Judicial Crisis Network are directly assisting Leo in coordinating the effort. “Make no mistake,” Leo told an audience last month at the Ronald Reagan Dinner at the Conservative Political Action Conference, “How we deal with this vacancy now, the strength that we as the pro-Constitution movement demonstrate in [the Gorsuch] fight, will determine the extent to which we are able to both nominate and confirm pro-Constitution judges as we move forward.”

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