As an increasing number of judges in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have moved to take senior status, paving the way for new President Biden appointees that could swing the court left.
Senior status is a state of semi-retirement for judges that allows the president to appoint a replacement. Nine members, who had been appointed by then-President Bill Clinton, have indicated that they will be taking senior status since the election. Those members had previously given the court a liberal bent, which former President Donald Trump had upended with his own appointees.
"President Trump appointed 10 judges to the 9th Circuit and dramatically changed its overall ideology," said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California, Berkeley's law school.
As Clinton appointees begin to exit, Biden will have opportunity to install his own judges. Biden has not publicly commented since taking office on how he plans to deal with judicial nomination, although he has previously said he hopes to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court.
Arthur Hellman, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said that Trump's appointees had made the court more "centrist," rather than conservative as many had claimed. He added that the centrism could be tampered by new appointees.
"I think they're waiting to see how speedily the Senate acts," Hellman said. "But I think we can expect several of the Clinton judges to take senior status in the next few months."