Federal court judges, including those who serve on the District Courts, the Circuit Courts of Appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court, are nominated by the president and must be confirmed by the Senate. Methods for selecting judges to serve on state courts vary considerably by state and even within states depending on the nature of the vacancy and the court. Although most states use elections as part of the process to determine who occupies the bench, several have selection processes that parallel the nomination and confirmation process at the federal level. Others give governors the authority to appoint judges from a slate of candidates submitted by a bipar- tisan nominating commission. The judicial branch of federal and state governments is, in theory, sup- posed to function in an apolitical fashion. Independence from the other branches of government is part of a structural design aimed at insulating the judiciary from direct political influence. But when the structural design of the judiciary includes the appointment of jurists by elected executives and legislators, questions inevitably arise about the extent to which politi- cal factors shape not only the selection of judges but also the decisions judicial bodies produce. The questions taken up in this chapter focus on the federal bench and explore, in particular, the influence of politics on the selection, rejection, and tenure of judges. 1 Nominations, Confirmations, and Departures of Federal Judges
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