Reclaiming the Courts for a Generation: U.S. Senate Confirms Record-Breaking 200th Federal Judge | News | First Liberty

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Reclaiming the Courts for a Generation: U.S. Senate Confirms Record-Breaking 200th Federal Judge

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July 3, 2020
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by Jorge Gomez and Mia Gradick, Contributing Writers • 5 min read

Today, we’re reporting a judicial milestone that will have a generational impact in our nation’s federal courts for the next 30 to 40 years, and that will help preserve religious freedom for our children and grandchildren.

The U.S. Senate recently voted to confirm Cory Wilson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, marking a record-breaking 200th federal judge appointed by the current president.

Judge Wilson fills the final vacancy (the critical “swing” seat) left on the 5th Circuit, and his confirmation also means there are zero (0) vacancies left at the circuit court level.

But, just how far ahead of previous presidents are the current president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?

  • The president has appointed federal judges at a 30% faster rate than his predecessor.
  • The president has appointed appellate (circuit) judges at a 73% faster rate than his predecessor.

Thanks to your generous support, First Liberty’s team of experts was able to thoroughly vet Judge Wilson’s record on religious liberty, and provide our analysis to the Senate and the administration.

Right now, America needs strong judges committed to protecting the Constitution and upholding religious liberty, especially after seeing abusive government officials unleash an All-Out assault on churches and people of faith during the recent health crisis.

Let’s briefly look at how federal judges played an essential role in restoring religious freedom during one of our nation’s most vulnerable and unprecedented moments.


First Liberty is devoting enormous manpower, work hours and resources to fully examine the record of federal judicial nominees.

We need YOUR financial support to maximize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reclaim America’s courts.

Please make a critical gift to First Liberty Institute today


Judge Wilson will join Judge James Ho on the 5th Circuit, the latter who’s also demonstrated to be a stalwart protector of religious liberty.

Judge Ho—formerly one of First Liberty’s most active volunteer network attorneys—wrote a concurring opinion in a recent case, Life Tabernacle Church v. Governor John Bel Edwards, involving a violation of religious freedom and infringement of rights by abusive public officials. He passionately defended the First Amendment, stating:

“People of faith demoralized by coercive shutdown policies, that raises a question: If officials are now exempting protesters, how can they justify continuing to restrict worshippers? The answer is that they can’t. Government does not have carte blanche, even in a pandemic, to pick and choose which First Amendment rights are ‘open’ and which remain ‘closed.’ ”

Similarly, in the 3rd Circuit, Judge Peter Phipps (also appointed during the current administration) recently displayed his commitment to protecting religious freedom. He wrote a dissent in Bullock v. Carney explaining that Delaware Governor’s John C. Carney’s emergency order discriminated against churches by severely restricting their in-person services, while allowing liquor stores, gun shops and other businesses to reopen at higher capacities.

Judge Justin Walker is another federal judge who recently issued a pivotal ruling in one of First Liberty’s cases (On Fire Christian Church v. Fischer).

As a district court judge in Kentucky, he heard the first case in the nation protecting the right of churches to safely gather again for worship during the pandemic. His commitment to protecting religious freedom was made clear when he wrote:

“On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter. That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion…The Mayor’s decision is stunning. And it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional.”

Only a few weeks after issuing this opinion, the U.S. Senate confirmed Justin Walker to become a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the second most important court below the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Defining Moment for the Future of America’s Courts 

As we face a constitutional crisis and all-time high attacks on our First Amendment freedoms, the federal bench needs more originalists like Judges Ho, Phipps, Walker and Wilson—judges who will respect religious freedom and protect the Constitution.

As part of First Liberty’s national fight to reclaim religious liberty, our expert legal team continues vetting and analyzing the records of tens, even hundreds, of federal nominees. But the window of opportunity to provide our expertise on judges to the U.S. Senate and administration is closing…and it’s closing fast.

It takes an enormous amount of manpower, work hours and resources to fully examine the record of nominees—and it’s only with YOUR financial support, right now, that we can maximize this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Will you consider making a critical donation to First Liberty today?

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