How Uncertainty About Judicial Nominees Can Distort the Confirmation Process

39 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2015

See all articles by Maya Sen

Maya Sen

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

William Spaniel

University of Rochester

Date Written: August 27, 2015

Abstract

Why are judicial nominees allowed to refuse to answer questions about important issues that could come before the courts? We address this question by examining the information environment surrounding judicial nominations. Using the Supreme Court as our example, we formulate a model that departs from the existing literature by incorporating the fact that the Senate often does not know what type of candidate the President is trying to appoint. Our model shows when the President and Senate are ideologically divergent, low information about nominees’ views results in the Senate occasionally rejecting acceptable nominees. However, when the President and Senate are ideologically close, the President benefits from leaving the process opaque — that is, allowing his nominees to avoid answering tough questions. Thus, even though low information can be costly to both parties, keeping the process nontransparent shields the President from being penalized for selecting more like-minded (and possibly extreme) judges.

Keywords: Judicial Process, Judicial Nominations, Political Theory, Political Ideology, Judges, Government, Law and Legal Institutions

Suggested Citation

Sen, Maya and Spaniel, William, How Uncertainty About Judicial Nominees Can Distort the Confirmation Process (August 27, 2015). HKS Working Paper No. 050. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2698248 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2698248

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

William Spaniel

University of Rochester ( email )

No Address Available

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