For this paper, we reached out to every Democratic senator and requested information about the process that they use to identify the individuals that they recommend for federal judgeships. Of the 45 senators who have made judicial recommendations, 37 have created a committee of people to help them do so. Nineteen of the 37 senators with such committees have publicly available information about who sits on their committee. Our research into the backgrounds of those individuals revealed that these committees are heavily disproportionately composed of corporate lawyers, prosecutors, and political donors. The remaining 18 senators with committees operate in complete secrecy.
The paper authors recommend abandoning the current committee system in favor of establishing an executive commission tasked with finding nominees for federal judgeships. The commission should be made up of lawyers from progressive sections of the legal community including civil rights attorneys, union lawyers, and public defenders and be demographically diverse. We believe that this kind of commission, which resembles a commission successfully used by Jimmy Carter, would improve the judges that Democrats appoint to the federal bench.