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17 J.L. & Pol. 41 (2001)
The American Bar Association, Judicial Ratings, and Political Bias

handle is hein.journals/jlp17 and id is 51 raw text is: The American Bar Association, Judicial Ratings,
and Political Bias
John R. Lott, Jr.*
The American Bar Association (ABA) has had a central role for
fifty years in determining who gets appointed to the federal courts.
During the last year the debate over what role the ABA should play
has become considerably more intense.         In March, the Bush
administration removed the ABA from the screening process, only to
see its decision largely undone when the Democrats gained control
of the Senate in May. The debate is largely one over whether the
ABA has a liberal political agenda that colors its review of prospective
judicial candidates, with Republicans concerned and Democrats
dismissing the fears as unjustified. The ABA has rejected the liberal
label and claims that there is a high wall between its policy
positions supporting abortion rights and gun control and its
evaluation of judges.1 The issue was also stirred up recently when
James Lindgren released his study showing that a Bush appointee
with good credentials-both private and government practice
experience, a top-10 law school education, law review experience,
and a federal court clerkship-has a lower probability (32%) of
getting the highest ABA rating than a Clinton appointee who has
none of these credentials (48%).2
There are several questions that arise in this debate. Are the ABA
judicial  ratings  systematically  biased  against Republican     or
conservative judges? In the past, presidential administrations have
informed the ABA about potential picks before they are made public
* The American Enterprise Institute, 1150 17th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. BA.
and Ph.D., UCLA.
1 Associated Press, ABA Keeps Its Role in Judge Selections, DESERT NEWS (Salt Lake City, UT),
Sunday, August 5, 2001, p. A13.
2 James Lindgren, Examining the American Bar Association's Ratings of Nominees to the U.S.
Courts of Appeals for Political Bias, 1989-2000, 17J.L. & POL. 1, 19. For an example of the press
coverage see, A] Swanson, Study: Bias in ABA Judicial Ratings, United Press International,
Monday, August 6, 2001.

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