A Long View of the Senate's Influence over Supreme Court Appointments
Christine Kexel Chabot
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
August 8, 2012
Hastings Law Journal, Forthcoming
Supreme Court Justices sometimes disappoint their appointing presidents, and opposing-party Senates are often blamed for presidents' "mistakes." This paper offers the first empirical analysis of the Senate's role over an extended historical period. It measures whether ideologies of Senates to which Justices are nominated predict Justices' voting behavior.
Earlier empirical studies consider only limited numbers of recent nominees. They suggest that the Senate has constrained presidents' choices, and many scholars theorize that the Senate has enhanced its role in the appointments process since the 1950s. This study substantially qualifies earlier understandings of senatorial constraint.
Taken as a whole, historical data show presidential ideology significantly predicts Justices' votes, while senatorial ideology does not. The Senate's ideology has had significant predictive power over Justices' votes in only two isolated historical periods. It last gained significance in the 1970s and after filibustering Abe Fortas, but then it failed to maintain this position after the Senate rejected Robert Bork in 1987.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 42
Keywords: Supreme Court, appointments, Senate, president, law and politics
JEL Classification: K40Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 10, 2012 ; Last revised: October 1, 2012
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