NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

ABA's Ranking of Judicial Nominees Under Fire

August 7, 2001

When it comes to evaluating the qualifications of judicial nominees, the American Bar Association's procedures are biased in favor of more liberal candidates, critics charge.

Northwestern University School of Law professor James Lindgren studied the ABA's ratings of appointees to the U.S. Courts of Appeals during the first Clinton and first Bush administrations.

  • Reviewing the ratings of the 108 nominees who were appointed during those administrations, Lindgren discovered that the ABA applied measurably different and harsher standards to the Bush nominees than to Clinton nominees.
  • The bias was particularly evident when the ABA evaluated candidates lacking prior judicial experience.
  • Some 85 percent of Clinton appointees without prior judicial experience were unanimously rated "Well Qualified" compared with only 17 percent of the Bush nominees.
  • Lindgren found Clinton nominees had more than 10 times better odds of getting the ABA's highest rating than did similarly credentialed Bush nominees.

In short, being nominated by Bill Clinton was a stronger positive variable than any other credential or than all other credentials put together.

Source: James Lindgren (Northwestern University), "Yes, the ABA Rankings on Judicial Nominees Are Biased," Wall Street Journal, August 6, 2001.


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