Battle over the Bench: Senators, Interest Groups, and Lower Court Confirmations

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Who gets seated on the lower federal courts and why? Why are some nominees confirmed easily while others travel a long, hard road to confirmation? What role do senators and interest groups play in determining who will become a federal judge? The lower federal courts have increasingly become the final arbiters of the important political and social issues of the day. As a result, who gets seated on the bench has become a major political issue. In Battle over the Bench, Amy Steigerwalt argues that the key to ...

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Overview

Who gets seated on the lower federal courts and why? Why are some nominees confirmed easily while others travel a long, hard road to confirmation? What role do senators and interest groups play in determining who will become a federal judge? The lower federal courts have increasingly become the final arbiters of the important political and social issues of the day. As a result, who gets seated on the bench has become a major political issue. In Battle over the Bench, Amy Steigerwalt argues that the key to understanding the dynamics of the lower court confirmation process is to examine the process itself. She offers a new analytic framework for understanding when nominations become contested, and shows when and how key actors can influence the fate of nominations and ultimately determine who will become a federal judge.

Given the increasing salience of lower court decisions, it is not surprising that interest groups and partisan agendas play an important role. Steigerwalt inventories the means by which senators push through or block nominations, and why interest groups decide to support or oppose certain nominations. The politics of judicial confirmations do not end there, however. Steigerwalt also reveals how many nominees are blocked for private political reasons that have nothing to do with ideology, while senators may use their support for or opposition to nominees as bargaining chips to garner votes for their positions on unrelated issues. Battle over the Bench showcases the complex and, at times, hidden motivations driving the staffing of the federal bench.

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

Sheldon Goldman

Battle over the Bench represents valuable research about an important and timely topic—the confirmation by the United States Senate of presidential nominations to the lower federal courts and why it matters. There are numerous important findings, and Steigerwalt’s book is, in my judgment, the most theoretically sophisticated book on lower court confirmations. She succeeds admirably in her goals. This is unquestionably a major addition to the literature.

Christine L. Nemacheck

Steigerwalt uses elite interviews with Senate staffers, a former U.S. senator, and interest group leaders to examine how interest groups participate in lower court confirmation proceedings, why they participate, and whether their participation is seen as effective in the view of those in the Senate. The first-hand account provides new and important insight into the confirmation process and further illuminates our understanding of why some nominations move relatively quickly through to confirmation while others are delayed or even blocked altogether.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813929941
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 8/9/2010
  • Series: Constitutionalism and Democracy Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy Steigerwalt is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University.

University of Virginia Press

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures

Acknowledgments

Introduction: The Changing Tone of Lower Federal Court Confirmations 1

1 What Makes a Nomination Run into Trouble? Senators, Interest Groups, and the Four Tracks to Confirmation 23

2 Death to Nominees: Senatorial Courtesy and the Ability to "Kill" Judicial Confirmations 49

3 "Herding Cats": Holds and Private Political Fights 67

4 Interest Groups and Judicial Confirmations: A View from the Senate 95

5 Interest Groups and the Decision to Object: Sending Confirmations down the Public Partisan Track 119

6 Whither Nominees? The Fate of Nominations Sent down the Public Partisan Track 149

Conclusion: What the Future Holds for Lower Court Nominations and the Senate Confirmation Process 185

Appendixes

A Data Collection Methodology 199

B Variable Descriptions and Measurements for Tobit Regressions 202

C Circuit Court Nominations Opposed by Interest Groups, 99th-109th Congresses (1985-2006) 207

Notes 209

Bibliography 237

Index 253

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