The Gatekeepers: Federal District Courts in the Political Process

By Kevin L. Lyles | Go to book overview

3 The Nomination and Appointment of Federal District Court Judges

The decision as to who will make the decisions affects what decisions will be made. 1

This chapter looks more closely at how our federal district court judges are selected with particular emphasis on the nature of the process and the dynamics involved in their screening, nomination, and confirmation. 2 A better understanding of the procedures and dynamics leading to the selection of our district judges should enable us to develop more informed analyses both about their roles and functions, as well as about the linkages between individual presidential administrations and the performance of their judicial appointees. As in the previous chapter, relevant NDJS data are included throughout this discussion in an attempt to fill the gaps between the formal institutional processes of the selection, nomination, and confirmation of district court judges as compared to the practical realities of these processes as viewed by the judges themselves.


IN THE BEGINNING: THE ORIGINS OF JUDICIAL SELECTION

The essential constitutional provision regarding judicial selection is the "Appointments Clause" of Article II, par. 2, cl. 2: "[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States . . . but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments." However, as detailed in chapters 4 and 5, it is instructive to note here that these general procedures, guidelines, and practices that flow from this formal constitutional provision have been variously interpreted and tailored by presidential administrations, resulting in shifts of power, process, and product.

In any event, the selection of federal trial judges was included in the many

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