It's Not Personal

Politics and Policy in Lower Court Confirmation Hearings
Logan Dancey, Kjersten R. Nelson, and Eve M. Ringsmuth
Lower Court confirmation hearings reveal much about senators’ power and ambitions



In order to be confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench, all district and circuit court nominees must appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a confirmation hearing. Despite their relatively low profile, these lower court judges make up 99 percent of permanent federal judgeships and decide cases that relate to a wide variety of policy areas. To uncover why senators hold confirmation hearings for lower federal court nominees and the value of these proceedings more generally, the authors analyzed transcripts for all district and circuit court confirmation hearings between 1993 and 2012, the largest systematic analysis of lower court confirmation hearings to date. The book finds that the time-consuming practice of confirmation hearings for district and circuit court nominees provides an important venue for senators to advocate on behalf of their policy preferences and bolster their chances of being re-elected. The wide variation in lower court nominees’ experiences before the Judiciary Committee exists because senators pursue these goals in different ways, depending on the level of controversy surrounding a nominee. Ultimately, the findings inform a (re)assessment of the role hearings play in ensuring quality judges, providing advice and consent, and advancing the democratic values of transparency and accountability.

Logan Dancey is Associate Professor of Government at Wesleyan University. 
Kjersten R. Nelson is Associate Professor of Political Science at North Dakota State University.
Eve M. Ringsmuth is Associate Professor of Political Science at Oklahoma State University.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 210pp.
  • 22 charts, 10 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2020
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13183-9

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  • $74.95 U.S.

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  • Confirmation hearings; confirmation process; district court(s); circuit court(s); courts of appeals; Senate Judiciary Committee; Lower court; Congress; Article III; Advice and Consent; separation of powers; legislative/judicial interaction; judicial politics; controversial nominees; interest groups; interest group opposition; congressional committees; committee chairs; presidential nominations; nuclear option; lifetime appointment