© 2024 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Judge Vacancies Filling Up; Who Are the Judges and What Do They Do?

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, James R. Browning United States Courthouse, San Francisco, California

President Trump is rapidly reshaping the judiciary. On this River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with guests about how Republicans are systematically filling vacancies in the federal court system with young, conservative judges.

Joining the conversation is former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Kevin Techau and Todd Pettys of the University of Iowa College of Law. 

One reason these jobs are important is that once the judges are confirmed, they are lifetime appointments.  Pettys says that although the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly use the term "life-tenure," language that yields that consequence is in the Constitution.  

"The idea is we want a group of people who are politically insulated, which means they can hand down decisions that may be unpopular and the notion was that would be a steadying force. So, if the public is getting too worked up about an issue and maybe not in a frame of mind to make good judgments, there will be a branch of government that can say, well let' s just think more here for the long-term."

Pettys says that the goal of long term steadiness is also meant to help in criminal cases.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Lindsey Moon served as IPR's Senior Digital Producer - Music and the Executive Producer of IPR Studio One's All Access program. Moon started as a talk show producer with Iowa Public Radio in May of 2014. She came to IPR by way of Illinois Public Media, an NPR/PBS dual licensee in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and Wisconsin Public Radio, where she worked as a producer and a general assignment reporter.