Partisanship, Norms, and Federal Judicial Appointments

8 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2017

See all articles by Keith E. Whittington

Keith E. Whittington

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: November 29, 2017


The political contestation that has surrounded appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court has extended to appointments to the federal circuit courts. For a quarter-century, both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have obstructed to an unprecedented degree the confirmation of presidential nominees to the courts. Political polarization and the political salience of judicial selections are not going to go away any time soon. The informal norms and practices governing judicial selection and confirmation are coming under political pressure and fraying. To preserve a well-functioning and independent judiciary, political leaders in both parties will need to resist efforts to engage in either court packing or extreme obstructionism and find ways to fill judicial vacancies despite sharp partisan disagreement over preferred judicial candidates.

Keywords: judicial appointments, confirmations, Senate, circuit courts, federal courts, constitutional law

Suggested Citation

Whittington, Keith E., Partisanship, Norms, and Federal Judicial Appointments (November 29, 2017). Available at SSRN:

Keith E. Whittington (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States
609-258-3453 (Phone)
609-258-1110 (Fax)


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