Commonwealth Review of Political Science

Commonwealth Review of Political Science


Nominations to the federal judiciary are among the most important decisions made by American presidents. Provided lifetime tenure upon confirmation, judges nominated by a given president are likely to serve well past the Chief Executive’s time in office—allowing them the ability to give voice to the nominating president’s ideological views, in some cases, for decades. While shared partisanship is a key consideration in making judicial nominations, do presidents also tend to nominate individuals with common career backgrounds and life experiences? This paper employs a comparative framework to analyze the characteristics of individuals appointed at the circuit court level by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Understanding the dynamics of lower court nominations is important due to the fact that appeals court judges decide the vast majority of cases heard at the federal level. Various methodological techniques preliminarily confirm differences in the traits of the circuit court nominees chosen by Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump. Specifically, we have found that a judge’s age and membership in the Federalist Society appear to be primary cues to President Trump’s nomination selections. These overall results allow for a more nuanced understanding of the various individuals nominated to serve as circuit court judges.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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