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Changing Backgrounds of U.S. District Judges: Likely Causes and Possible Implications

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 93 Issue: 4 Dated: January-February 2010 Pages: 140-149
Russell Wheeler
Date Published
January 2010
10 pages
This article documents the change in Federal district judges' vocational backgrounds since 1953; assesses the normative arguments for continuing the change, and those for reversing it; assesses likely causes of the shift in vocational background; and suggests areas for further equity.
Federal judges' vocational backgrounds since the Eisenhower administration have changed mainly at the district court level and involved a fairly steady decline in the proportion of judges appointed from private practice and a corresponding increase in State judges and United States magistrate and bankruptcy judges. The increase in public sector appointments to the Federal district courts likely results from at least five factors: 1) improvements in State and term-limited Federal judiciaries; 2) gender/ethnicity/race; 3) judicial salaries; 4) the nomination and confirmation process; and 5) attractiveness of district judgeships to private lawyers. This article is a preliminary effort to assess how various factors have influenced changes in district judges' vocational backgrounds. 2 figures, 6 tables, and 41 notes