Bench Memos

Why Pre-Nomination Consultation Is Worse Than Worthless

Through the MOU, the seven Republican signatories have encouraged the President to consult with the Senate prior to submitting judicial nominations. Apart from the senators’ blatant misreadingof the relevant constitutional text, this is a very bad idea.

Senators are of course free to convey their views to the President at any time regarding prospective nominations, and perhaps the White House could respond to the MOU by a blanket invitation to senators to feel free to make their views known. But what some signatories of the MOU seem to contemplate is that the President will run by some undefined, but bipartisan, set of senators specific individuals that he is considering nominating. Such a process would be worse than worthless for two reasons:

First, the primary, if not exclusive, criterion of a good nominee in the eyes of the typical senator is that the nominee has raised a lot of money for the senator and is a crony of his (or is very close to a major fundraiser/crony). Senatorial influence on judicial nominations has been a major cause of mediocrity on the courts. Anything that aims to increase that influence is bad.

Second, any expectation that unspecified Democrats will be consulted merely creates a trap. If the President were to consult leading Democrats as to specific prospective nominees, Democrats would object to any decent nominee and then complain all the more bitterly if the President went ahead with the nomination. The chasm between a sound understanding of judging and the Democrats’ understanding is so vast that it is absurd to think that consultation might help bridge it. And even if the President were to consult some Democrats, there will always be other Democrats who can complain that they should have been consulted.

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