CHICAGO – As the administration of President-elect Donald Trump begins its transition into the White House, the effect of this new administration may have less sweeping changes and more to do with picking its battles. According to Christopher Keleher, a Chicago-based appellate lawyer, the affect of a Trump presidency on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals may be less broad and more measured.
“It'll be interesting to see, because Donald Trump has expressed minimizing federal involvement and intrusion into various places like commerce, finance and the Federal Reserve,” Keleher told the Cook County Record. “As far as judges who could potentially get appointed, they could interpret federal agencies in a way where they could have less scope. I could see that affecting judicial picks.”
What also has yet to be seen is the potential influence of the Trump administration on current cases involving the LGBTQ community. According to Keleher, the administration could influence current and future cases in Chicago's courts and elsewhere, such as the North Carolina case involving bathroom use by those who identify as transgender.
“It'll take a lot of effort to retrench some of the laws and some of the pronouncements made by the Department of Justice over the last eight years,” said Keleher. “It'll be interesting to see the North Carolina law that's being challenged. The separate bathrooms will be a flash point in the Supreme Court. I wouldn't be surprised if the next nominee won't support that change to the bathrooms.”
Currently, the Seventh Circuit is scheduled to reconsider en banc a ruling made in July that federal law cannot be interpreted to include gays, lesbians and potentially transgender people under sex discrimination prohibitions. However, any attempts to repeal laws and decisions that have been advantageous to the LGBTQ community, most notably the recognition of the right to marry, may be less of an uphill battle, and more of a sheer vertical wall, according to Keleher.
“I think they'll look where they can pick their fights,” said Keleher. “I'm not sure if that's where they want to start a big fight. I'm hopeful (that the focus will) be more on the economy and health care. With the exception of North Carolina, they may focus on fights against what the prior administration wanted to do. But gay marriage is the law of the land. I don't think they could change that if they could.”
As for current or future cases filed in the Seventh Circuit, Keleher said that while it's still far too early to tell what will happen in a Trump presidency, the president-elect will still have his pick of recommending judicial nominees. But Keleher said, in his experience, judges have been fair and just, no matter their political affiliation.
“He's entitled to his nominees,” said Keleher. “I think judges can have an ideological bent; they can go left, right or middle. But in my experience in the Seventh Circuit, no matter what case I have or who the judge is, I always feel that I get a fair shake. Even when I lose, I get a fair shake and I'm hopeful that will continue.”