Who Rates Prospective Federal Judges for the American Bar Association?
15 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2013 Last revised: 6 Oct 2015
Date Written: September 19, 2013
The American Bar Association plays a formal, unique, and consequential role in the selection of federal judges. More specifically, the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, a group of 15 lawyers appointed by the president of the ABA, rates all potential nominees for federal judicial appointments. The work of the Standing Committee has been a subject of some study and public debate, but the professional orientation of the members of the committee has been largely ignored.
I found that lawyers who represent business interests in state and federal courts are vastly overrepresented on the committee, and that most of those lawyers practice in this country’s largest law firms. This imbalance is inconsistent with any legitimate justification for the ABA’s special role in judicial selection and with the ABA’s public statements about the composition of the committee. Unless the ABA commits to reform its process so that a more representative swath of the profession evaluates prospective federal judges, it should not retain its privileged status.
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