Biden is quickly appointing judges but Obama put the most on the bench

President Joe Biden has appointed more judges to the federal courts at this stage in his tenure than any president since John F. Kennedy, and his appointees include a record number of women and racial and ethnic minorities, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Judicial Center.

But the leading chief executive as far as influencing the judiciary was President Barack Obama, who put 306 judges on the federal courts that remain on the bench today.

President George W. Bush appointed 262 of the current judges, William J. Clinton installed 240 sitting federal judges, and election loser Donald Trump is responsible for 228 of the 1420 people who decide the fates and fortunes of Americans facing justice or suing over various disputes.

Biden may be off to a fast start but the 94 sitting judges he named leaves him behind106 judges appointed by President George H.W. Bush remain in office, compared to 139 of those nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

Time has eroded the impact of some White House occupants, as Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard M. Nixon respectively named 35, 5 and 6 judges who are still on the bench.

Since 1789, presidentially appointed judges may serve for their lifetime during good behavior on the U.S. district courts, U.S. courts of appeals, Supreme Court of the United States, and U.S. Court of International Trade, as well as the former U.S. circuit courts, Court of Claims, U.S. Customs Court, and U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals.

As of 2022, federal judges’ annual salaries are: $223,400 for district judges, $236,900 for circuit judges, $274,200 for associate Supreme Court justices, and $286,700 for the Chief Justice of the United States. Once a judge meets age and service requirements he or she may retire and collect the same salary, plus cost-of-living increases, for the remainder of his or her life. 

Chief Justice John Roberts has repeatedly asked Congress to increase judicial pay, calling the situation “a constitutional crisis that threatens to undermine the strength and independence of the federal judiciary” although decisions handed down during his tenure have greatly increased the political power and influence of billionaires and corporations, while the national average U.S. income in 2021 was $97,962 and the median U.S. income that year was $69,717.

There are currently 870 authorized Article III judgeships: nine on the Supreme Court, 179 on the courts of appeals, 673 for the district courts and nine on the Court of International Trade, although the total number of presidentially appointed judges stands at 1420, since there are more than 600 judges on senior status.

Judges are eligible to take senior status if they are at least 65 years old and have served at least 15 years on the bench, or any combination of age and years of service thereafter that equals 80.

More than 1000 current federal judges are white, compared to all the rest who are classified as African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Chaldean, Pakistani, Asian American or Pacific Islander.

Of those who remain in service and are not on senior status, Barack Obama appointed 276 current federal judges, Donald J. Trump selected 217, George W. Bush named 141, Joseph R. Biden nominated 85, William J. Clinton picked 75, Ronald Reagan chose 42, and George H.W. Bush installed 29.

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