Federal Judicial Nomination Process
Learn the basics about federal judicial nominations and why the individuals charged with dispensing justice in our society have a direct impact on civil rights and other protections for all.
The Judicial Nomination Process
- When there is an open judicial position, the president nominates someone to the position. Usually he discusses the nomination with key senators before announcing his choice.
- The nomination is sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- The Judiciary Committee collects information about the nominee, including a background check by the FBI, and reviews the nominee's record and qualifications.
- The Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nominee. Witnesses speak both in favor and against the nomination. Senators ask questions of the nominee.
- The Judiciary Committee votes on the nomination, and then makes a recommendation to the full Senate, that the nominee either be confirmed, rejected, or that they do not have a recommendation. Sometimes they decline to send a nominee to the Senate at all.
- The full Senate debates the nomination.
- A vote of 3/5 of the Senate (60 senators) is required to end debate. This is called a cloture vote. If enough senators wish to delay a vote on a nominee, they can filibuster by not voting to end debate.
- When debate ends, the Senate votes on the nomination. Confirmation requires a simple majority of the senators present and voting.
Current Judicial Vacancies
- Vacancies in the Federal Judiciary - USCourts.gov
More on the Nomination Process
- Supreme Court Appointment Process: Roles of the President, Judiciary Committee, and Senate (pdf) - Congressional Research Service - 7/6/05
- Answering the Call for a More Diverse Judiciary: A Review of State Judicial Selection (pdf) - Report - Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law - 6/21/05
LCCR Resources on Past Nominations
- Supreme Court Nominees
- Federal Court Nominees Under Bush
- Video Ad Against Extremist Judges - Save Our Courts (2004)
Additional Resources on Judicial Nominations
- Supreme Court Nominations, present-1789 - Senate.gov
- Transcripts of Nomination Hearings for Supreme Court Justices - Senate.gov
- List of Judicial Nominations in the 110th Congress - Department of Justice
- Biographies of Federal Judges (1789-present) - Federal Judicial Center
- The Crucial Importance of the Ninth Circuit - LCCR - Fact Sheet - 4/14/03
- Justice For All: The Importance of a Fair and Balanced Judiciary to the GLBT Community - Report - Human Rights Campaign Foundation - 9/29/04
- Ten Principles for Preserving Courts' Role in American Democracy (pdf) - Fact Sheet - The Constitution Project - 5/9/06