Cover of Scoring Points by Nancy Scherer
Scoring Points
Politicians, Activists, and the Lower Federal Court Appointment Process
Nancy Scherer


288 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804749480
Paperback ISBN: 9780804749497


Excerpts and More

This book explores how the lower federal court appointment process became vastly politicized in the modern era. Scherer develops a theory of “elite mobilization,” positing that lower court appointments have always been used by politicians for electoral purposes, but because of two historic changes to American institutions in the 1950s and 1960s—the breakdown of the old party system, and a federal judiciary reception to expanding individuals’ constitutional rights—politicians shifted from an appointment system dominated by patronage to a system dominated by new policy-oriented appointment strategies.

The use of these new strategies not only resulted in partisan warfare during the nomination and confirmation stages of the appointment process, but also led to party-polarized voting in the lower federal courts. Employing exclusive data of judicial decision-making from the New Deal era through the present, Scherer demonstrates that there was little party-polarized voting in the lower federal courts until the late 1960s, and that once politicians began to use elite mobilization strategies, significant party-polarized voting in the lower federal courts resulted. Accordingly, elite mobilization strategies have affected not only politics in Washington, but also the way justice is distributed across the country.

About the author

Nancy Scherer is Assistant Professor of Political Science at The Ohio State University.

"...Scoring Points is an important contribution to the literature on the selection of lower federal court judges, and more generally on the American political system."

Perspectives on Politics

"Scoring Points is a provocative work that breaks new theoretical ground in linking the transformation of the American party system to the politicization of the federal judiciary. Scherer is a forceful advocate for her thesis. This is a book that will be discussed and cited for years to come."

—Sheldon Goldman, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

"What a splendid, and spectacularly timely, achievement! Scherer has produced the best discussion, by far, of political contests over the lower federal courts. Her discussion is full of surprises about American history, American politics, and American judges. A truly indispensable guide."

—Cass Sunstein, University of Chicago Law School