Judicial Nominations and Confirmations in Obama’s First Term

President Obama's first term saw comparatively fewer nominations, submitted relatively later, with greater times from district vacancy to nomination and confirmation, and an increase in vacant judgeships. This paper explores these and related aspects of the first term record.


  • Vacancies increased under Obama, while in general they declined under his two immediate predecessors. The increase was due primarily to comparatively fewer nominees and a slower pace of nominations and of confirmations. Confirmation rates, discounting late term nominations, were roughly similar to his predecessors'.
  • Confirmations by voice votes or unanimous consent have declined since Clinton's first term, and negative votes have increased.
  • The Obama administration and the Senate have continued the demographic and vocational background diversification of the district and appellate courts.
  • Senators’ use of committees to vet potential nominees had little apparent impact on the timing of nominations and confirmations or on the demography or vocational backgrounds of nominees.
  • In terms of the party of the president who appointed the appellate courts’ active judges, Obama has shifted the balance somewhat and may be able to shift it even more in his second term.

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