Federal Judiciary Nomination Process

Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges, and district court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate, as stated in the Constitution. Article III of the Constitution states that these judicial officers are appointed for a life term. The federal Judiciary, the Judicial Conference of the United States, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts play no role in the nomination and confirmation process

1. After notification of a vacancy, the president selects nominees for all federal judgeships "with advice and consent of the Senate." Thus, the Senate must approve all nominees before they are appointed to the bench.Nominees for lower courts are often made with the recommendation and support of Senators from the nominee’s home state and/or a state nominating committee. The Constitution sets forth no specific requirements. However, members of Congress, who typically recommend potential nominees, and the Department of Justice, which reviews nominees' qualifications, have developed their own informal criteria.

2. The FBI conducts a background check.
3. President announces to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the public the names of the nominees. At the same time Senators are asked to submit "blue slips" which normally contain a "positive" or "negative" rating. Some Senators prefer to "reserve judgement." A blue slip is the traditional method of allowing the home state senators of a judicial nominee to express their approval or disapproval. Blue slips are generally given substantial weight by the Judiciary Committee in its consideration of a judicial nominee. The process dates back several decades and is grounded in the tradition of "senatorial courtesy," which traces its roots back to the presidency of George Washington.
Tradition has long held that if a "blue slip" is not returned by a Senator, a hearing would be held up. This year, the Senate Judiciary Committee is still haggling over a new "blue slip" policy which allows the process to continue as long as one form is returned.

4. Before the Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nominee, it asks the American Bar Association (ABA) to rate the nominee's legal ability. The ABA reviews the candidate's record and gives a ranking.

5. Once the ABA has reviewed the nomination, and normally with the approval of both senators from the nominee's state, a hearing date is set.

6. After the hearing, the Committee votes on the nominee. If a majority of the committee votes in favor of the nominee, the nomination is sent to the full Senate for its consideration. If the majority votes against the nomination, the nomination dies.

7. The nomination is sent to the floor for debate.

8. If a majority of the Senate (or 3/5 of the Senate if a Senator filibusters the nominee) vote in favor of a nominee, the nominee is confirmed for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.

There is a current attempt to change the Senate cloture rules(for ending debate) to make filibusters more difficult.