Partisanship, Norms, and Federal Judicial Appointments

13 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2018

See all articles by Keith E. Whittington

Keith E. Whittington

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: December 17, 2017


The politics of federal judicial appointments is as heated and as high-profile now as it has ever been in American history. For an important segment of both political parties, the federal courts have become a critical policymaking institution, and as a result both parties have been pushed to treat judicial appointments as an important political battleground. It is worth pausing to assess descriptively just how difficult it has become to place judges on the federal bench in the current age of party polarization and how the White House and the Senate have responded to the gridlock and sought to ease the possibility of judicial appointments on a simple majority basis. In an era of heightened ideological conflict, partisans might be tempted to go further and take extraordinary measures to construct a politically pliable judiciary, a risky step in a climate of close partisan competition.

Keywords: Federal Courts, Judicial Selection, Separation of Powers, Trump, Judicial Independence, Court Packing

Suggested Citation

Whittington, Keith E., Partisanship, Norms, and Federal Judicial Appointments (December 17, 2017). Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Forthcoming. 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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