Assessing Changes in State Representation on the U.S. Courts of Appeals


  • AUTHORS' NOTE: This article represents the views of the authors, not necessarily those of the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the federal judiciary or any other institution with which the authors are affiliated. We thank Christine Nemacheck, Denis Steven Rutkus, Susan Navarro Smelcer, Richard Vining, and Margaret Williams for their helpful comments.

Kevin M. Scott is an analyst for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and a lecturer for Johns Hopkins University. His research interests include judicial appointments and decision making on appellate courts.

R. Sam Garrett is a specialist in American national government at the Congressional Research Service. He is also a research fellow at American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies and an adjunct professor in the School of Public Affairs.


When a seat becomes vacant on a federal court of appeals, the president has the opportunity to nominate a new judge for the Senate's consideration. Geography is often a factor in the decision, particularly in determining whether the new judge will be nominated from the same state as the predecessor. Goldman refers to state affiliations on appeals courts (e.g., a “Missouri seat” or an “Ohio seat”) as “state representation.” Building on Goldman's work, we seek to accomplish two objectives. First, we demonstrate that although changes in state representation have declined over time, there are still occasions when presidents change the state representation of seats. Second, we investigate and analyze changes in state representation of circuit court judges confirmed since 1891 to test hypotheses about factors that influence changes in state representation.