Who gets seated on the lower federal courts and why? Why are some nominees confirmed easily while others travel a long, hard road to confirmation? What role do senators and interest groups play in determining who will become a federal judge? The lower federal courts have increasingly become the final arbiters of the important political and social issues of the day. As a result, who gets seated on the bench has become a major political issue. In Battle over the Bench, Amy Steigerwalt argues that the key to understanding the dynamics of the lower court confirmation process is to examine the process itself. She offers a new analytic framework for understanding when nominations become contested, and shows when and how key actors can influence the fate of nominations and ultimately determine who will become a federal judge.
Given the increasing salience of lower court decisions, it is not surprising that interest groups and partisan agendas play an important role. Steigerwalt inventories the means by which senators push through or block nominations, and why interest groups decide to support or oppose certain nominations. The politics of judicial confirmations do not end there, however. Steigerwalt also reveals how many nominees are blocked for private political reasons that have nothing to do with ideology, while senators may use their support for or opposition to nominees as bargaining chips to garner votes for their positions on unrelated issues. Battle over the Bench showcases the complex and, at times, hidden motivations driving the staffing of the federal bench.