The average age of Obama-nominated appeals court judges is more than 55 years old, higher than any president's going back to Jimmy Carter, according to the liberal interest group Alliance for Justice. The age of these judges matters in an era when presidents regularly look to the circuit appeals courts as the pool for Supreme Court candidates. Younger judges have a chance to develop a record that presidents can examine, yet still be young enough to be considered for the high court.
Alito and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas all became appellate judges in their early 40s. Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee, and Justice Elena Kagan, a Democrat, would have been on the appeals court in Washington before their 40th birthdays had senators not blocked their confirmations. Roberts had to wait another decade before becoming an appeals court judge, while Kagan is the only justice who did not serve as an appellate judge.
Obama's picks have yet to surprise anyone with their decisions, said Levey, head of the conservative interest group. "So Obama's liberal critics can rest assured that if he's re-elected, his transformation of the appeals courts will make a big difference in the law."
Party labels do not always foretell a case's outcome. During recent challenges to the Obama administration's health care overhaul, Republican appeals court judges in Cincinnati and Washington cast deciding votes upholding the law, while a Democratic appointee in Atlanta voted to strike down the requirement that most people buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
Still, there is wide agreement that Obama picks have sharply altered the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had been dominated by conservative, Republican appointees.
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