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Presidential Success in Supreme Court Appointments: Informational Effects and Institutional Constraints


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I thank Greg Caldeira, Larry Baum, Luke Keele, Daniel Lempert, Lauren Mattioli, William Minozzi, Jason Morgan, Jennifer Utter, Craig Volden, and Jack Wright for helpful comments and discussion on this project. A previous version of this article was presented at the Research in American Politics group at The Ohio State University.


Spatial models of Supreme Court appointments assume that the president knows the preferences of nominees and is constrained only by the ideology of the Senate. However, nominees vary in the amount of available information that can be used to determine their preferences. I find that justices who offered more information in the form of relevant professional experience at the time of nomination are more congruent with their appointing president. Institutional factors, such as polarization between the Senate and president, exert less influence on congruence. The president is, however, constrained from appointing highly experienced justices if the Senate and president are distant ideologically.