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Reforms in Judicial Selection - Will They Affect the Senate's Role?

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 64 Issue: 2 Dated: (August 1980) Pages: 60-73
E E Slotnick
Date Published
14 pages
Findings from a study focusing on Senate perceptions of the advice and consent role regarding Federal judicial appointments in light of the Omnibus Judgeship Act and accompanying reforms are discussed.
The passage of the Omnibus Judgeship Act and its creation of 152 new postions in the district and appeals courts have evoked renewed interest in and given new importance to the appointment processes outlined in the Constitution. This study focused on determining the roles senators see themselves occupying in the advice and consent process, institutional 'norms' regarding the senatorial role in recruitment to the lower Federal courts, and the impact upon advice and consent of contemporary judicial selection reforms. Information is based on interviews conducted in 52 Senate offices, including interviews with 10 senators and key staff members. Thirteen of the 17 members of the Judiciary Committee were questioned. Study findings indicate that the Hamiltonian 'minimalist' view of the Senate's role in judicial appointment processes does not agree with the Senate's concept of advice and consent today. Approximately 75 percent of Senate respondents claimed that their role went beyond attesting to a nominee's competence. The majority felt that it was appropriate to inquire into a nominee's substantive policy positions or vote for confirmation on the basis of expressed policy position. It appears that the controversial 'blue slip system,' a method which gives leverage to a united senatorial delegation in a State where the senators are not from the President's party, is used infrequently. When used, it often serves some other purpose than defeat of the nominee; i.e., delay of a nomination. Nevertheless, the majority favored continuation of the blue slip system. Support for it is premised on its place as an institutional norm and its role in protecting State prerogatives. Support was clearly partisan; Republicans, the minority party, showed nearly universal support for its continued operation. Footnotes and tables are included.


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