Why “Go Public”? Presidential Use of Nominees to the U.S. Courts of Appeals


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I would like to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Lisa M. Holmes is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Vermont. Her research primarily involves judicial staffing politics at the state and federal level, including judicial appointment politics, diversity on the courts, and the decision to leave the bench, and has been published in a variety of journals.


In recent years, presidents have utilized public appeals on behalf of their nominees to the U.S. Courts of Appeals with increasing regularity. In this study, I examine the timing, audience, and themes of these presidential speeches from 1977 to 2004. I find that presidents have tended to discuss circuit court nominees who are vulnerable to defeat in the confirmation process before narrow audiences consisting of sympathetic groups or campaign supporters. Presidents discussed nominees in an effort to influence Senate behavior, but more so to court favor with like-minded groups and link nominees to electoral politics. These findings indicate that presidents have begun to insert their nominees into public political discourse for their own political gain, rather than to help their nominees secure confirmation.