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date: 17 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Of all the difficult choices confronting societies when they go about designing legal systems, among the most controversial are those pertaining to the selection and retention of their judges. In the context of the Supreme Court of the United States, recent scholarship has shed considerable light on two aspects of the appointments process: presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. On the other hand, our knowledge of the process's triggering mechanism, a vacancy on the Court, remains sketchy. Turning first to vacancies, although the American Constitution implies that the process of appointing justices starts with the president, it in fact begins with a vacant seat on the Court. That void can arise in three ways: the creation of a new seat, the impeachment and removal, or departure of a sitting justice. None has received sufficient attention from political scientists. This article looks at the U.S. Supreme Court in the context of judicial appointments, agenda setting, and judicial decision making.

Keywords: United States, Supreme Court, judicial appointments, agenda setting, judicial decision making, judges, presidential nomination, Senate confirmation, impeachment

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