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Monday, February 27, 2017

ABA Ratings of Federal Judicial Nominees

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article* this weekend about the American Bar Association’s process for reviewing and rating federal judicial nominees.  (You can download a PDF version here if you do not have subscription access.)  The upshot of the article is that the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, a rotating group of fifteen lawyers, reviews and rates every Article III nominee before confirmation hearings begin.  The Standing Committee conducts confidential interviews of those who have interacted professionally with each nominee, ranging from co-counsel and opposing counsel, to judges before whom the nominee has appeared, to judicial colleagues if the nominee is already in the bench.  For Supreme Court nominees, the number of interviews can reach into the hundreds.  Each nominee is then rated well qualified, qualified, or not qualified, based on a committee vote.

The ABA’s role dates back to the Eisenhower Administration.  Its involvement has been controversial at times, but its general criteria for evaluating nominees—professional competence, integrity, and temperament—are wholly appropriate.  For district court nominees, whose daily interaction with litigants and attorneys requires a calm demeanor and unquestioned impartiality and skill, the ABA’s review is a welcome assessment of the nominee's temperament and ability.  For appellate nominees, the same focus on demeanor and skill is beneficial in a different way.  There is no question that policy considerations guide a President’s selection of a Supreme Court nominee, nor is there any question that the Senate is inclined to turn every Supreme Court confirmation hearing into excruciating political theater.  But however it ends, the process should begin with a strong vote of confidence that the nominee is professionally up to the job.

* Full disclosure: I was interviewed for, and quoted in, the article.  But that’s not why it’s interesting!

Posted by Jordan Singer on February 27, 2017 at 10:32 AM in Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink

Comments

but its general criteria for evaluating nominees—professional competence, integrity, and temperament—are wholly appropriate. Fo

James Lindgren published a statistical analysis of this process some years ago. Bottom line: humbug, just like the ABA itself.

Posted by: Art Deco | Feb 27, 2017 10:54:14 AM

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