Academic journal article Justice System Journal

"Changing Backgrounds of U.S. District Judges: Likely Causes and Possible Implications"

Academic journal article Justice System Journal

"Changing Backgrounds of U.S. District Judges: Likely Causes and Possible Implications"

Article excerpt

Russell Wheeler, "Changing Backgrounds of U.S. District Judges: Likely Causes and Possible Implications," Judicature 93 (January- February 2010): 140-49

Wheeler, a political scientist long involved in federal court administration and now president of the Governance Institute, takes a serious look at the backgrounds of U.S. district judges, starting with those appointed by President Eisenhower. He focuses particularly on the declining proportion of those judges who came to the bench from private practice. Dividing data by presidencies, he begins by exploring changes in U.S. district judges' prior vocations - whether they had been state judges or (non-lifetime) federal judges, served in the public sector, or came from private practice. His major finding is that while two-thirds of Eisenhower's district court appointees had moved to the bench from private practice, only one-third of President George W. Bush's appointees had done so. After Eisenhower, there was a drop to somewhat over half for appointments by Presidents Kennedy through Ford and to around 47 percent from Carter through the first President Bush and to under 40 percent for President Clinton. Wheeler then describes variations by region and provides data for the nation's largest district courts, and, digging deeper, he looks at changes in length of time in private practice for district judges who came from that background (the trend is for less time) and the amount of time in prior judicial careers (longer). …

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