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Do They "Know Them When They See Them?": The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary and Qualifications for the Federal Bench


The project explores the role of the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary (SCFJ) in rating the qualifications of nominees to the federal judiciary. It proceeds in three parts:


  • In the first part, I identify the source and magnitude of the apparent bias against Republican presidents' nominees to the circuit courts of appeals using a unique data set. The set comprises political and demographic characteristics of members of the SCFJ. The additional data allow me to identify the mechanism that produces the SCFJ's apparent bias.

  • In the second part, I examine the consequences of ABA ratings. Specifically, I look at the discourse in nominees' confirmation hearings to see if ABA ratings affect discussion -- e.g., sentors' questioning -- of the nominees. In this section, I use the knowledge gained from the first section to create an adjusted measure of nominee qualifications to avoid collinearity with measures of ideology.

  • In the final section, I answer why senators and presidents still value the ABA's input and delegate part of the quasi-governmental investigatory function, given the controversy that surrounds the ratings. I employ a principal-agent framework within the "new economics of organization" to guide this section.

Confirmation politics

Judicial behavior

The American presidency

Political communication




Working Papers and Projects

  • "How You Rate Depends on Who Investigates: Partisan and Other Biases in ABA Ratings of Courts of Appeals Nominees, 1958-2013."

  • "Talkin' about My Qualifications: Adjusted ABA Ratings and Court of Appeals Confirmation Hearing Discourse, 1997-2012."

  • "Lawyers and Judges Revisited: Why the American Bar Association Rates Federal Judicial Nominees."

  • "Changing Horses or Staying the Course: Evaluating the 2012 Recall Elections in Wisconsin." (with Barry Burden, David Canon, Kenneth Mayer, and Donald Moynihan)

  • Federal Judicial Selection Stage Project (with Stephanie D. Kerce, Emory University)

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