While executive orders and relief bills have crowded headlines, the stage has been set for perhaps equally important action by the Biden administration: the potential appointment of dozens of new judges. After Donald Trump's exit from the White House, the Washington Post noted how many judges are now contemplating retirement so that Biden can choose their successor. 

The Biden administration already has five open seats at the circuit level, the appeals courts just below the Supreme Court. A majority of the more than 60 circuit judges eligible to take senior status and open their positions were nominated by Democrats.

“People are approaching this with a different sense of urgency,” said deputy White House counsel Paige Herwig, who leads the new administration’s effort. “And they understand. They saw what the Trump administration did for four years.”

President Joe Biden will sign a series of executive orders aimed at reforming the US immigration process, signaling a return to a more inclusive policy President Joe Biden will sign a series of executive orders aimed at reforming the immigration process, signaling a return to a more inclusive policy. Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN

If Biden wants to have an impact, his administration will have to work overtime to get new judges approved. With Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holding seats open, Trump was able to fill almost a third of the appeals court with young, very conservative lifetime appointees.

Officials searching for potential judges are mindful they may only have two years of unified government to do it.

“We are seeing quite a few vacancies arise now, but I think that they will be staggered overall, in part because judges are sensitive to how these changes affect their circuit,” Marin K. Levy, a Duke University School of Law professor, told the Post. “I expect that there will be more to come in the spring and summer months.”

The White House has an extensive background in judicial appointments. Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris served on the Senate Judiciary Committee.