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Obama Expected to Reshape Federal Judiciary

No question the judiciary is about the feel a shift. The question is: What impact will it have on federal law enforcement?
By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — The federal judiciary is on the verge of a major shift when President-elect Barack Obama’s nominees take control of several of the nation’s most important appellate courts, legal scholars and political activists say. With the Supreme Court’s conservative direction unlikely to change anytime soon, it is the lower courts — which dispense almost all federal justice — where Obama can assert his greatest influence.
The change will be most striking on the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, long a conservative bastion and an influential voice on national security cases, where four vacancies will lead to a clear Democratic majority. Democrats are expected to soon gain a narrower plurality on the New York-based 2nd Circuit, vital for business and terrorism cases, a more even split on the influential D.C. appeals court and control of the 3rd Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Although Republican control will probably persist on a majority of appellate courts for at least several years, some experts say that by the end of Obama’s term, he and the Democratic Congress will flip the 56 percent majority Republican nominees now exert over those highly influential bodies.
“Obama has a huge opportunity,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who is an authority on federal courts.
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