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Lee Epstein
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Lee Epsteing Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor
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THE INCREASING IMPORTANCE OF IDEOLOGY IN THE NOMINATION AND CONFIRMATION OF SUPREME COURT

Published in 2008. In the Drake Law Review/American Judicature Society Symposium 56: 609-635.

Lee Epstein
Jeffrey A. Segal
Chad Westerland

Among the central questions raised in this Symposium is how the personal beliefs of federal judges and Justices affect the nomination and confirmation processes. If we define "personal beliefs" in strictly ideological terms and if we focus exclusively on Supreme Court Justices, then our answer is straightforward enough: personal beliefs affect who the President will nominate and whether the Senate will confirm his choice. A great deal of research demonstrates as much, and the empirical analyses we report throughout this Article—updated to include the appointments of John G. Roberts and Samuel Alito—merely serve to reinforce the point.

But this is not the end of the story. While it is true that ideology has always played some role in judicial appointments, its importance seems to be increasing with time. As we show, the degree to which candidates share the political values of their nominating President is higher now than it was just three decades ago. Moreover, though Senators of today—no less than those of yesterday—attend to the the nominees' qualifications, ideological compatibility now takes precedence.

Whether this is a positive or negative development is a matter of contention. That it is entirely rational is far less so. When Presidents seek out candidates who share their political values they are often rewarded with Justices who entrench those values into law—at least in the short term.

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