Bias, the Bar, and the Big Picture: Evaluating Circuit Court Nominees' ABA Ratings from 1953 to 2011

43 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 28 Aug 2012

See all articles by James Sieja

James Sieja

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Recent work on potential bias in the ABA ratings of federal judges has sparked some controversy, showing that the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary (SCFJ) systematically rates Republican nominees to the US Courts of Appeal lower than Democratic nominees (Smelcer, Steigerwalt and Vining 2012). This paper builds on that research in three ways: (1) it replicates the basic finding that the SCFJ has shown bias against Republican nominees when it comes to the “well qualified” rating; (2) it shows that this bias remains even if all nominees (1953-2011) officially rated by the ABA are included in the analysis; and (3) it presents weak evidence that the SCFJ was not politically biased from the Eisenhower through Carter administrations. Using hypotheses derived from the issue evolution and conflict extension frameworks, I suggest a mechanism for the observed change from professionally-motivated to politically-influenced ratings from the SCFJ.

Keywords: judges, confirmation process, political change, judicial nominations

Suggested Citation

Sieja, James, Bias, the Bar, and the Big Picture: Evaluating Circuit Court Nominees' ABA Ratings from 1953 to 2011 (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2109063

James Sieja (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Political Science ( email )

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Madison, WI 53706
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