Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Participation by the Public in the Federal Judicial Selection Process


William G. Ross


The firestorm ignited by the 1987 nomination of Robert H. Bork provided a vivid reminder that public opinion and organized interest groups can have a potent and even decisive impact upon the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices and other federal judges. Al-though the Constitution vests the prerogative of nomination in the President and the power of confirmation in the Senate, the public also is a partner in the selection process in ways that often extend far beyond the citizenry's election of its President and representatives in the Senate.

Public opinion has influenced the judicial selection process throughout the history of the Republic, although public participation in that process has been sporadic. The sharp contrast between the public controversy over the recent Rehnquist and Bork nominations and the widespread public silence concerning the Scalia and Kennedy nominations suggests that organized interest groups are not likely to have a significant role in every nomination. A clear trend, however, exists toward an increased public awareness of the importance of federal judicial nominations and a growing public participation in the selection process.