Strategic Presidential Response to Appointment Constraints: Judicial Nominations in a Polarized Era translation missing: zh.hyrax.visibility.files_restricted.text

Kerce, Stephanie Dean (Fall 2017)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/zg64tk93r?locale=zh
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Abstract

A president’s prerogative to appoint judges to the federal courts for lifetime appointments can serve as one of his most enduring legacies. As the president seeks to nominate his most preferred candidate, this effort will be hindered by the relative level of constraint surrounding an individual vacancy. As the confirmation of judicial nominees becomes more contentious in the Senate, presidents must be increasingly strategic about their choice of nominee. When faced with constraints in the Senate, presidents have several available strategies to try and win confirmation of their judicial nominees. This dissertation examines two specific bargaining strategies a president might use to maximize their influence over the federal judiciary. First, they may choose to bargain with the Senate over one or more nominee attributes with respect to a single vacancy. Presidents should have a preference for young, ideologically proximate nominees who will have a lengthy career shaping the law in a manner consistent with the president’s policy goals. Senators of the opposing party, however, should have a preference for older, more moderate nominees that will limit the president’s legacy on the courts. This analysis tests these predictions regarding nominee ideology and age under varying levels of constraint for Courts of Appeals nominations from 1977-2012. The findings suggest that presidents of both parties respond to the constraints of divided government and polarization, but that home state senators have minimal impact in constraining a president’s choice of nominee. Under conditions of high constraint, the president may opt employ a second strategy of bundling two or more nominees together in an attempt to win successful confirmation of multiple nominees. This bargaining strategy is examined using case study analysis of vacancies on the Courts of Appeals during the presidencies of Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. The presidential records from these administrations demonstrate that bundling is a logical, rational response to the highest levels of constraint. The analysis of these presidential bargaining strategies suggests that increasing polarization and constraint in the Senate may have a moderating effect on the federal judiciary.

Table of Contents

1 Inside the Black Box of Lower Court Nominations  . .1

1.1 Lower Court Appointments in the Modern Era . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

1.2 The Black Box of Judicial Nominations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

1.3 Presidential Strategic Response to Confirmation Constraints . . . . . . . . 14

1.4 Impact of Lower Court Nominations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

1.5 Outline of Chapters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

2 The Shifting Judicial Appointment Process 22

2.1 Contentious Confirmation Politics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

2.2 Shifting Pivots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

2.3 Shifting Institutional Dynamics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

2.4 A Shifting Nominee Pool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

2.5 The Impact of Contentious Confirmation Politics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

3 A Theory of Nominations: Strategic Presidential Response to Appointment Constraints 49

3.1 Judicial Nominations: Presidential Goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50

3.2 Judicial Confirmations: Constraint on Presidential Choice . . . . . . . . . . 63

3.4 Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72

4 Bridging the Ideological Divide: Compromise in Two Dimensions 74

4.1 Presidential Strategic Response to Appointment Constraints . . . . . . . . 76

4.2 Data and Methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81

4.3 Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89

4.4 Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97

 5 The Whole Package: Compromise Through Bundling 101

5.1 Empirical Puzzles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103

5.2 Controversies in Lower Court Appointments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105

5.3 Bundling as Bargaining . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107

5.4 Case Study Analysis of Presidential Records . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114

5.5 Carter and the Fourth Circuit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116

5.6 Bush and The Sixth Circuit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125

5.7 Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134

6 The Future of Appointments: Nominations Under Minimal Constraint? 138

6.1 Obama’s Judicial Legacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139

6.2 Trump’s Judicial Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141

6.3 The Future of Nomination Constraints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

 

6.4 Conclusion and Implications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152

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