Shaping the Federal Courts: The Obama Nominees


  • Direct correspondence to Kirk A. Randazzo, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, 329 Gambrell Hall, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29229 〈〉. The authors would like to thank Richard W. Waterman of the University of Kentucky for his gracious invitation to participate in this special issue.



The objective of this study is to explore President Obama's nominations to the lower federal courts and compare his patterns to those from George W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton using a typology established by Goldman in 1997.


Using data from 1993 to 2012 provided by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, we examine a series of cross-tabulations to make our comparisons.


The data indicate that President Obama has nominated more women and minorities to the federal bench than either of his two immediate predecessors. Additionally, his nominees possess more moderate ideological preferences than the nominees from either Bush or Clinton.


These results demonstrate that Obama seems more concerned with racial and gender diversity rather than ideological preferences. Therefore, President Obama's claims of pragmatism and his desire to nominate individuals who reflect American society, often doubted by both political supporters and detractors, appear supported by the available data.