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Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench Paperback – September 17, 2013
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''John Lott provides a powerful critique, amply supported by facts, of the rapid deterioration of the process for confirming federal judges. As courts have become more political and government has grown increasingly intrusive, battles over confirmations have grown more intense and partisan, with the result, Mr. Lott concludes, that the quality of the judiciary is endangered.'' --Robert Bork, former U.S. Appeals Court judge and Supreme Court nominee
''This book is a serious effort to identify and grapple with the current problems in our judicial nominations process. Unlike the many partisan works on the subject, John Lott does not lay the blame of our current troubles on one party's doorstep but demonstrates that there is more than enough fault to go around. Even those who disagree with the author's conclusions will be well advised to read this excellent book.'' ----William P. Marshall, professor, University of North Carolina Law School, and former Deputy White House Counsel to President Clinton
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Top Customer Reviews
This book does a fine job of arguing a single, important point. Over the last twenty-five years or so individuals who would be the most effective federal judges are increasingly likely to suffer delays in being confirmed and are less likely to actually be confirmed. John states his thesis on the first page:
"Who are the nominees that make it through the confirmation process to become a federal judge? Are they the brightest people who have the most detailed and sophisticated knowledge of the law? Are the most successful lower court judges also the most likely to get promoted to serve on higher courts?
"Surprisingly, the qualities that make someone a successful judge also make them less likely to be confirmed for the same reason that smart, persuasive people are rarely asked to be jurors."
John supports his thesis in two principal ways. In Chapter 2, "Supreme Battles," he provides some anecdotal evidence. For example, the nominations of Robert Bork and Douglas Ginsburg were opposed effectively because they were considered too "brilliant"; Anthony Kennedy was acceptable because he wasn't considered as smart (pp. 75-76). Elena Kagan was confirmed with fewer votes than Sonia Sotomayor because Kagan was considered "more formidable" (p. 81).
John presents the bulk of his argument in Chapter 4, "Who Has the Toughest Time Getting Confirmed?" This chapter uses regression analysis to look at how nominees of different quality are treated. But what is "quality"? John uses two types of measures.Read more ›
Professor Lott carefully documents the increased legislative role of the court, the increased role of the federal court, the increased political role of the ABA, and the costs of being nominated. Like much of his work, the book is full of statistics, graphs, and analysis. The book contains several appendices with empirical details. Some of the main chapters are based on his previously published work. It is well researched, and should not be dismissed out of hand.
As one who watched the Rehnquist and Bork nominations in a graduate computer lab, glad to have an excuse to avoid working on my academic work, I enjoyed his historical analysis of the watershed Reagan years.
Confirmation battles seem to have created a sort of prisoners' dilemma where both political parties work to lower the quality of the other sides' judicial picks, yet everyone would probably be better off if all judges were brilliant than if few were. Hopefully Lott's book will start a discussion that might push Senators to escape this dilemma.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Book's conclusion are eh. The author seems to leave out some factors. Seems more he wanted to get to a conclusion then supported it opposed to looking at the data. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Remmy923
We are Dumb for letting this happen...A must read Book..Published 19 months ago by Neal A. Barncard
The courts have become politicized. The confirmation process does not allow for the smartest, most academically qualified folks to achieve confirmation. Read morePublished on January 17, 2014 by Fred McFarland
A suberb analysis of the process and an informative comparison of judicial picks from different administrations as well as different eras in history.Published on September 30, 2013 by SFK