Quality fuels delays in judicial confirmations


A new study published in the recent issue of Journal of Empirical Legal Studies finds that the higher the quality of a judicial nominee the longer it takes for the nominee to be confirmed. Nominees who attended a top-10 law school, served as judicial clerks, and had high American Bar Association rankings faced very difficult nominations. Circuit court judges, who were measured by output and citations to be the most successful, faced the most difficult confirmation battles. Examining nominations from the Jimmy Carter administration through the end of George W. Bush's first term, the author found that when the judicial quality of a judge increased by one percent, the length of their confirmation process increased between one and three percent.

Lott hypothesized that it is the fear of capable, hard-working judges who would be effective, write influential opinions, and change the position of the courts that is creating the delays. That is the last thing one's political opponents want and, at least, confirmation delays will limit the amount of the judge's damage, e.g. time in court. It isn't about party lines; the length of the confirmation process has increased during both recent Republican and Democratic presidencies while the opposition party controlled the Senate. "Merit should matter and Americans presumably want the smartest, most influential people on our courts," Lott states. "But the next time you hear opponents claim that the president's nominee is 'extremist,' think 'smart' instead."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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