Nominating Commission

Nominating Commission in the United States

A central element in the so-called “merit” selection of judges. The term nominating commission has generally been associated with federal judicial selection, but the commissions established for the lower federal courts function very much like Missouri Plan screening commissions. Federal nominating commissions have a comparatively short history. President Jimmy Carter brought to the White House a commitment to merit selection. Less than a month into his presidency, he established, by executive order, U.S. Circuit Judge Nominating Commissions for each of the then eleven U.S. Court of Appeals circuits. These commissions were citizen panels that would recommend names of prospective appointees whenever a judgeship became open in their geographic circuit. The members of each commission were chosen by Carter, and he was quite deferential to their recommendations. President Reagan did not share Carter’s enthusiasm for the commissions and abolished the panels soon after taking office in 1981. A parallel effort was made to create nominating commissions for U.S. District Courts. Since these courts function wholly within one state, these commissions were created by U.S. Senate members on an individual basis. Some states have two commissions, one for each Senate member. Almost three-quarters of the states now have such commissions. While their operating processes vary somewhat, members are appointed by the senator who created a commission. The legal profession has tended to be heavily represented on these commissions, but the commissions remain relatively partisan. The District Court Nominating Commissions screen names and pass recommendations on to the senator who, in turn, recommends the name for nomination to the president.

See Also

Missouri Plan (Judicial Personnel issue).

Analysis and Relevance

The use of nominating commissions was designed to remove some of the politics from judicial selection while at the same time improving the quality of those nominated. The politics cannot be totally removed, however, because commission memberships are politically made, and the recommendations of the commissions are always subject to executive action and legislative confirmation. Where used, the commissions tend to impinge on the power previously exercised by.individual senators. Indeed, it is for this reason that some senators have not wished to create commissions for U.S. District Court judges. In addition, the short-term record reveals that recommendations of commissions are virtually always of the same party as the president. This was the pattern for nominations before commissions were used. Where a difference does seem to exist is in the recruitment of minority and women judges. The record for the four years Carter used commissions in the selection of Court of Appeals judges shows that almost forty percent of the nominees were women, blacks, or Hispanics. Qualitative improvements from using nominating commissions are not apparent.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Nominating Commission from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Nominating Commission: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Nominating Commission. This part provides references, in relation to Nominating Commission, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Nominating Commission by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Nominating Commission and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Nominating Commission or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Nominating Commission and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Nominating Commission. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Nominating Commission should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Nominating Commission when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

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