The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, long considered one of the nation’s most conservative appellate courts, is shifting to a moderate direction with the balance up for grabs, reports the Washington Post. A growing list of vacancies — now five — has left the court evenly divided between Republican and Democratic appointees. With an election year approaching, experts predict the court will tilt decisively to the left if Democrats keep control of Congress and reclaim the White House.
“There is a very good chance that this court will be solidly Democratic for many, many years,” said Arthur D. Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor. The battle over the 4th Circuit, part of the broader struggle for control of the federal judiciary, resonates nationwide because the court has played a key role in terrorism cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Its rulings affect everyone who lives, works or owns a business in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. The 15-member court has lost several prominent Republican appointees. Two of Bush’s nominees were withdrawn this year when Democrats took over.