Monday, August 13, 2012

Chabot on Senatorial Influence on Supreme Court Appointments

Christine Kexel Chabot, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, has posted A Long View of the Senate's Influence over Supreme Court Appointments.  Here is the abstract:
Supreme Court Justices sometimes disappoint their appointing presidents, and opposing-party Senates are often blamed for presidents' "mistakes." This paper offers the first empirical analysis of the Senate's role over an extended historical period. It measures whether ideologies of Senates to which Justices are nominated predict Justices' voting behavior.

Earlier empirical studies consider only limited numbers of recent nominees. They suggest that the Senate has constrained presidents' choices, and many scholars theorize that the Senate has enhanced its role in the appointments process since the 1950s. This study substantially qualifies earlier understandings of senatorial constraint.

Taken as a whole, historical data show that presidential ideology significantly predicts Justices' votes, while senatorial ideology does not. The Senate's ideology has had significant predictive power over Justices' votes only in two isolated historical periods. It last gained significance in the 1970s and after filibustering Abe Fortas, but then it failed to maintain significant predictive power after the Senate rejected Robert Bork in 1987.