Frontrunners Emerge for New Vacancy on Influential Appeals Court

D.C. Circuit has an opening. This will be Trump’s primary legacy as he is picking judges off a list made up by the Federalist Society which is near rabid on originalism concerning the Constitution.

Conservatives are seizing the opportunity created by a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Thursday, culling a shortlist of prospective nominees for a panel frequently called the second most powerful court in the nation.

The frontrunners for the vacancy created by Judge Thomas B. Griffith’s retirement are acting associate attorney general Claire Murray, deputy White House counsel Kate Todd, and U.S. District Judge Justin Walker, according to sources who have worked on judicial confirmations for the Trump administration. Other candidates are also under consideration, and the situation remains fluid.

President Donald Trump’s stunning gauntlet of judicial confirmation successes will feature prominently in his reelection pitch. The D.C. Circuit nomination could mobilize conservatives in much the same way that Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation drove Republican energy in 2018. The vacancy also aligns with the Trump campaign’s messaging on deregulation and reducing agency power, given the D.C. Circuit’s heavy diet of agency-law cases.

Murray is widely seen as a strong contender for the federal bench and commands admiration across the administration. Todd, a former chief counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Litigation Center, has coordinated the administration’s judicial nominations process since 2018.

Walker was a professor at the University of Louisville School of Law before his appointment to a Kentucky federal trial court in 2019. The judge is close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and his advocacy for Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation is especially appreciated among conservatives.