2 Colorado Ethics Watch & Courts Matter Colorado
Citizens mostly remember the general rule about how judges in federal courts are selected from civics class: the President nominates someone to be a judge and the U.S. Senate confirms them. Not only is that actual system of nomination and confirmation a complicated, time-consuming process in D.C., there is a lesser known prologue to those stages that occurs at the home state level. This report goes
“behind the curtain”
of the federal judicial nominations process to reveal the often non-public initial step of a U.S. Senator submitting recommended names to the President before anyone is formally nominated as a federal judge for public Senate confirmation. This is not a process outlined in the Constitution or any statute, but a personalized practice of our 100 senators. There are no general rules and almost all states are different in how a senator may decide recommendations to the President. The process is often affected by personalities, political loyalties, and popularity. After outlining the general process of federal judicial nominations, this report explains in some detail how Colorado
enators screen potential nominees and examines how 10 other states reach their recommendations. This
report evaluates the “success” of each state’s approach by how well it
produces quality and diverse nominees and the transparency and timeliness of the selection process. These states were chosen as examples of geographically diverse states, some small and large states, mixed delegations and those with two senators from the same party, and home-states of senate leadership.
It’s important to
pull back the curtain and understand more details about the judicial selection process. Federal courts decide the big questions about our democracy: from healthcare access to marriage equality, workplace safety to copyright protection, police abuses to Presidential power. Citizens should know how the lifetime-appointed judges making these decisions are selected. Transparency in the process of submitting nominees means more public accountability for senators so that qualified and diverse candidates are selected
not just political allies. Every state should have a process that results in a diverse, fair and fully staffed judiciary.
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”
― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz