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Battle over the Bench

Senators, Interest Groups, and Lower Court Confirmations

Amy. Steigerwalt

Publication Year: 2010

As as arbiters of political and social issues, lower court judges play at least as decisive a role as Supreme Court justices, yet remarkably little is known about the process by which some lower court nominees are confirmed while others may be blocked. The most throrough empirical study the confirmation process concludes that political horse-trading unrelated to a judge's politics is even more important than the expected factors of political ideology and interest group lobbying.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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pp. vii

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

As with many projects, the list of those who have helped this book be-come a reality is numerous. The book is based on work begun at the University of California, Berkeley, and many professors and fellow graduate students provided excellent advice, feedback, and support; it is highly likely that any good ideas are theirs. Robert A. Kagan, my dissertation ...

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Introduction: The Changing Tone of Lower Federal Court Confirmations

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pp. 16-20

On May 9, 2001, President George W. Bush sent his fi rst set of nomina-tions for the lower federal courts to the Senate. This list included Texas Supreme Court justice Priscilla Owen, who was nominated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Almost immediately, battle cries were heard from liberal judicial watchdog groups, pro- choice groups, and Senate ...

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1 What Makes a Nomination Run into Trouble? Senators, Interest Groups, and the Four Tracks to Confirmation

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pp. 21-48

The staffing of the federal judiciary has taken on enormous importance in recent decades as more and more people have realized the reach and consequences of judicial decisions. Especially with regard to the federal appeals courts—the thirteen circuit courts and the Supreme Court—the appointment of new judges can infl uence the formation of public policy ...

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2 Death to Nominees: Senatorial Courtesy and the Ability to “Kill” Judicial Confirmations

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pp. 49-66

According to the four tracks framework explicated in chapter 1, each nominee should be viewed as a train that follows a unique set of train tracks from nomination to confi rmation. By conceptualizing the lower court confi rmation process as a set of interconnected train tracks, we can better understand the diff erent confi rmation environments nominees ...

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3 “Herding Cats”: Holds and Private Political Fights

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pp. 67-94

Chapter 2 outlined the use of senatorial courtesy, an informal custom that allows home- state senators to block an objectionable judicial nom-inee from progressing past the nomination stage. This chapter begins our examination of what can happen to nominations once they receive home- state senator approval and begin to move through the confi rma-...

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4 Interest Groups and Judicial Confirmations: A View from the Senate

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pp. 95-118

While considerable media and popular attention has been concentrated on the role outside interest groups play in the modern-day federal judicial confirmation process, in reality, we know relatively little about the activities of these groups. Conventional wisdom suggests that outside groups drive the process itself, setting the terms of the debate and dictating the ...

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5 Interest Groups and the Decision to Object: Sending Confirmations down the Public Partisan Track

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pp. 119-148

Senators and their staffs require in-depth information on every single judicial nominee. Interest groups help fill this information gap by serving as an important informal source of information. When a nominee begins to move through the confirmation process, groups may decide to adopt a more active lobbying strategy and publicly object to the...

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6 Whither Nominees? The Fate of Nominations Sent down the Public Partisan Track

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pp. 149-183

Chapters 4 and 5 outlined the important roles interest groups play in judicial confi rmations. Chapter 4, based on interviews with Senate staff , highlighted groups’ information-transmission role. Because senators and their staff lack the resources to conduct in- depth investigations of each and every lower court nominee, groups serve a vital purpose by helping ...

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Conclusion: What the Future Holds for Lower Court Nominations and the Senate Confirmation Process

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pp. 185-198

This book tells the story of how presidents, senators, interest groups, and concerned citizens battle over who sits on the federal courts. In one sense, it is the story of how individual senators possess enormous power over the operation of the Senate and the fate of judicial nominees; in another sense it is the story of how mobilized activists and citizens play a significant role in determining who will be confirmed...


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pp. 199-208


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pp. 209-235


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pp. 237-251


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pp. 253-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780813929989
E-ISBN-10: 0813929989
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813929941
Print-ISBN-10: 0813929946

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 5 graphs, 22 tables
Publication Year: 2010