Filling Federal Court Vacancies in a Presidential Election Year

Carl Tobias*

Scholars and politicians who closely track the federal judicial selection process appreciate that confirmations slow and ultimately halt over presidential election years, a phenomenon which has greater salience in a chief executive’s last administration. That policy comprises numerous strands. Important are the conventions—which have permitted the approval of many superb, uncontroversial district court nominees routinely through the fall of most presidential election years and in certain lame duck sessions—while allowing a number of capable, mainstream appellate nominees to manage consideration until the August Recess. The traditions derive from respect for voters’ preferences expressed in the elections, the incoming chief executive, who should have the opportunity to fill vacant judicial posts, and new senators, who must discharge their constitutional responsibility to provide advice and consent on selections.

 

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*Williams Chair in Law, University of Richmond School of Law. Thanks to Peggy Sanner and Katie Lehnen for fine ideas, Leslee Stone for excellent processing as well as Russell Williams and the Hunton Williams Summer Endowment Fund for generous, continuing support. The data in this piece were current when the piece went to print on April 25, 2016. Remaining errors are mine.