Posts tagged ‘judicial nominations’

Senate Confirmation Hearings

Some of the most highly publicized Senate hearings are those held for the purpose of considering presidential nominations. These nominations may include cabinet positions and nominations for other executive branch political offices, federal judges and U.S. diplomatic posts.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Harvard Law Record

Witnesses at nomination and confirmation hearings typically include the individual nominated as well as other individuals who may be in a position to provide relevant information regarding the credentials, experience, character, qualification and overall fitness for service of the individual nominated.

Confirmation hearings are conducted by committees of the Senate that come within the purview of their respective jurisdictions. For instance, Senate Armed Services Committee hearings would consider the nominations of individuals such as the Secretary of Defense while the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee would hold hearings to consider the nomination of individuals such as the Secretary of Energy.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is responsible for conducting hearings for the purpose of reviewing nominations of federal district and appellate court judges, Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgeand Supreme Court justices. Usually there is a large number of confirmation hearings held during the weeks and months immediately after a new president is inaugurated. Confirmation hearings may also be scheduled anytime a presidential nomination occurs. Senate confirmation hearings often result in a report to the full Senate to prepare for a floor vote.

While confirmation hearings may be conducted in a fairly routine manner that is not always the case. One of the highest-profile and most significant congressional hearings took place following the nomination of Judge Robert Bork by President Reagan to the United States Supreme Court in 1987. A huge battle between liberals and conservatives ensued, leading to millions of dollars being sent by both liberal and conservative activist groups. The Senate Judiciary Committee conducted twelve full days of hearings, with Judge Bork testifying during an unprecedented five days. Over the course of the hearing, one hundred witnesses appeared before the committee, either in support or opposition of the nomination. Ultimately, the Judiciary Committee voted against confirming Bork, however, it did not end there. Bork announced that he wished to proceed with a Senate floor vote; a vote that concluded 58-42 against the nomination.

To learn more about preparing to testify before Congress, consider attending TheCapitol.Net’s Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, also available for custom, on-site training. To learn more about congressional hearings, see TheCapitol.Net’s 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 1.58 Senate advice and Consent, Section 1.87 Example of the Influence of Hearings on Committee Action, and Section 7.5 Committee Follow-up Activities and Responsibilities.


For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Appointment and Confirmation of Federal Judges

The power to appoint all federal judges is shared by the president and the Senate. The legal framework for such appointments is established by provisions within the Constitution under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2.

Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building
Creative Commons License photo credit: LithiumP4

Nominations for judicial appointments by the president are transmitted by message to the Senate. The message is read and the Senate executive clerk assigns a consecutive number to the message. In most instances, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins the consideration of a nomination by gathering more information about the individual nominated. The nomination of federal judges is subject to a committee hearing, during which the nominee and others testify.

Several options are available to the Judiciary Committee regarding the disposition of a nomination, and the Committee is not required to act upon nominations at all. In the event the Committee chooses to report a nomination, it can choose to do so favorably, unfavorably or without any recommendation.

The committee chair usually reports the nomination to theCongressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider full Senate. The legislative clerk then notifies the executive clerk, who assigns the nomination a number and places it on the executive calendar of the Senate. When a nomination is considered by the full Senate, it is done in executive session, not a legislative session. The procedures utilized during an executive session are similar in nature to a legislative session. One exception is that floor consideration may not begin until a nomination has been placed on the calendar for a minimum of one day, except in the case of unanimous consent.

Only rarely does the Senate vote to reject a nomination. Unsuccessful nominations typically die from inaction. On occasion, a nomination may be sent back to the Committee for further consideration. Under Senate rules, pending nominations may be sent back to the president when the Senate recesses or adjourns for more than thirty days. The Senate retains the right to waive this rule by unanimous consent.

When a nominee is confirmed, the secretary of the Senate will attest to a “resolution of confirmation,” which is then sent to the White House. The president may also choose to withdraw a nomination at any time, which ends the nomination process.

To learn more about Congressional hearings, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course in Washington, DC: Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process; or the 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Section 10.80 Congress and the Executive: Appointments, and Section 10.81 Confirmation Procedure.

For more information about presentation and testifying training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The President’s Nominations to Federal Courts

Because appointments to Federal District and Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the Supreme Court, are lifetime appointments, the Senate plays a constitutional (Article. II. Section. 2.) and active role in such appointments. The stakes in judicial appointments are often seen as being quite high by most senators.

ah, the Spring St. courthouse
Creative Commons License photo credit: maveric2003

The president typically consults senators from the home state of a prospective nominee when making judicial nominations. This is particularly true when the senator is in the same party as the president. Once the judicial nomination has been received by the Senate, it is then referred to the Judiciary Committee and the committee chair directs a blue slip to senators from the state of the nominee. The blue slip may be used by senators for indicating either approval or disapproval of the nominee. In the case of a Supreme Court nominee, he or she will often make a courtesy call on members of the committee and often on other senators.

The breadth and time involved in the hearings conducted Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneiderby the Judiciary Committee varies based on the type of nomination and the level of support for that nominee. In the case of a district judge who is supported by both home state senators and in which there is little controversy, the matter might be handled through a hearing that covers multiple judges.

The nomination of a person to the Supreme Court usually involves a hearing that lasts at least several days. The length of time involving Supreme Court nominations allows the nominee to testify and gives committee members the opportunity to ask questions of the nominee at length. Numerous witnesses may also provide testimony after the nominee regarding a variety of factors for the committee to take into consideration.

A nomination can land in trouble when there are concerns regarding the views of the nominee or the character of the nominee. In some instances, political factors that are completely independent of the nominee can thwart a nomination. For instance, during a presidential election year, the Senate might be reluctant to oblige the sitting president by confirming a large number of nominees.

To learn more about the nomination of federal appointments, see TheCapitol.Net’s book, Supreme Court Nominations, and consider the 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Congressional Deskbook, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider, Section 10.120 Congress and the Courts, and Section 10.121 Nominations to Federal Courts.

For detailed information about the legislative process, see

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,