Trump appointments bring Seventh Circuit's judge roster back to full strength for first time in 8 years

By Justin Stoltzfus | Jun 11, 2018

CHICAGO — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is back to its full intended complement of judges after the confirmation of Michael Scudder and Amy St. Eve, two Chicago judges who joined the bench in May. 

And while the new additions, appointed by President Donald Trump, may change the complexion of the court, they may do less to change the court's bent.

After a bit of musical chairs, the recent confirmations, along with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett in Indiana to replace retired Judge John Tinder and several other moves have filled out the court's roster for the first time after years of attrition left the court short-handed for nearly eight years, leaving the court with just seven of 11 seats filled.

“It fills out the roster of active judges,” said Thomas Shriner Jr., of the firm of Foley & Lardner LLP, of Chicago. “The courts have been getting along for a while with the help of judges who are not active judges ... 

"Now they're back up to full speed.”

As for any potential ideological shift resulting from the new confirmations, Shriner said that a circuit court like the Seventh Circuit does not tend to be very politically charged.

“I don't think that the court is very ideological; it's not the Supreme Court,” Shriner said. "Their job is to sort things out and follow the law.”

Shriner said some cases are presented to Seventh Circuit Court judges in a way that offers political opportunities, but he doesn't think that, in general, the politics of the court are likely to change.

“I'll be surprised if the court changes its approach to things,” Shriner said.

Shriner said he is more concerned with the learning curve for the newly confirmed judges. He said it takes time for new judges to get used to the process of doing the routine work required in the Seventh Circuit Court. Shriner said senior judges William Bauer, Kenneth Ripple and Daniel Manion have been very active on the bench in the past, and are expected to continue to be active, giving the court essentially 14 judges available to be assigned to three-judge panels to hear appeals.

Moving forward, he said, the court will probably not use district judges as much.

Shriner said he is not too worried about future vacancies on the bench. Explaining that some judges are close to retirement age, he said the court will likely keep its numbers up a little more moving forward.

“They're all in my view pretty devoted to the court as an institution,” Shriner said, suggesting that some of the more seasoned members are likely to stay on until the “newbies” have gotten up to speed.

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