The Politics of Selecting the Bench from the Bar: The Legal Profession and Partisan Incentives to Politicize the Judiciary

40 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2015

See all articles by Adam Bonica

Adam Bonica

Stanford University

Maya Sen

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: January 7, 2015

Abstract

The American judiciary has increasingly come under attack as polarized and politicized. Using a newly collected dataset that captures the ideological positioning of nearly half a million judges and lawyers who have made campaign contributions, we present empirical evidence showing politicization through various tiers of the judicial hierarchy. We show that the higher the court, the more conservative and more polarized it becomes, in contrast with the broader population of attorneys, who tend to be liberal. These findings suggest that political actors not only appear to rely on ideology in the selection of judges, but that they strategically prioritize higher courts. To our knowledge, our study is the first to provide a direct ideological comparison across tiers of the judiciary and between judges and lawyers, and also the first to document how — and why — American courts are politicized.

JEL Classification: K490

Suggested Citation

Bonica, Adam and Sen, Maya, The Politics of Selecting the Bench from the Bar: The Legal Profession and Partisan Incentives to Politicize the Judiciary (January 7, 2015). HKS Working Paper No. RWP15-001, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2577378 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2577378

Adam Bonica

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Maya Sen (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://scholar.harvard.edu/msen

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