The Federal Appointments Process

A Constitutional and Historical Analysis

The Federal Appointments Process

Constitutional Conflicts

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Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: Published: January 2001

History > U.S. History, Law > Legal History, Politics > Political Science

Although the federal appointment of U.S. judges and executive branch officers has consistently engendered controversy, previous studies of the process have been limited to particular dramatic conflicts and have tended to view appointments in a vacuum without regard to other incidents in the process, other legislative matters, or broader social, political, and historical developments. The Federal Appointments Process fills this gap by providing the first comprehensive analysis of over two hundred years of federal appointments in the United States, revealing crucial patterns of growth and change in one of the most central of our democratic processes.
Michael J. Gerhardt includes each U.S. president’s performance record regarding appointments, accounts of virtually all the major confirmation contests, as well as discussion of significant legal and constitutional questions raised throughout U.S. history. He also analyzes recess appointments, the Vacancies Act, the function of nominees in the appointment process, and the different treatment received by judicial and nonjudicial nominations. While discussing the important roles played by media and technology in federal appointments, Gerhardt not only puts particular controversies in perspective but also identifies important trends in the process, such as how leaders of different institutions attempt to protect—if not expand—their respective prerogatives by exercising their authority over federal appointments. Employing a newly emerging method of inquiry known as “historical institutionalism”—in which the ultimate goal is to examine the development of an institution in its entirety and not particular personalities or periods, this book concludes with suggestions for reforms in light of recent controversies springing from the longest delays in history that many judicial nominees face in the Senate.
Gerhardt’s intensive treatment of the subject will be of interest to students and scholars of political science, government, history, and legal studies.


“For those seeking a one-volume overview of the federal appointments process and the existing literature on it, Gerhardt’s volume is a valuable synthesis . . . . [A]n erudite overview of the topic. Thoughtful, well-written, and comprehensive, the book is a good starting point for understanding the federal appointments process as a whole.” — John Anthony Maltese, Law and Politics Book Review

“Gerhardt astutely combines his excellent insights into the development of American constitutional law with a keen understanding of politics, especially twentieth-century politics. His book, therefore, has a singularly practical quality that complements its otherwise scholarly tone.” — Kermit L. Hall , American Historical Review

“Gerhardt has written a book that will be of great interest to students of American politics. In what only can be described as a scholarly tour de force, Gerhardt encompasses the broad sweep of the American experience to provide a detailed and systematic analysis of the process of selecting and confirming judicial and nonjudicial presidential appointments . . . [A] remarkable achievement.” — Sheldon Goldman , Political Science Quarterly

“Gerhardt’s project is extremely worthwhile. It provides a well-structured rubric for evaluating the roles of the different players in the process, as well as giving a very thoughtful historical perspective. For anyone interested in the appointment process, the book is a must, and it provides valuable historical reference for scholars, politicians and nominees alike.” — M. Margaret McKeown , Jurist

“In the wake of one of the closest elections in history, and with an evenly divided Senate, the calculus of Supreme Court appointments has never been more complex. Once again, professor Michael J. Gerhardt has arrived just in time with a tool every aspiring talk show expert guest needs to decipher a burning issue of the day. Gerhardt’s The Federal Impeachment Process became a must-read two years after its 1996 printing, and now The Federal Appointments Process is poised to become the essential new math for Supreme Court speculators. . . . When the next vacancy arises, fledgling Court speculators who have read this book should feel justifiably confident to enter the talk-show tempest and make their well-informed opinions.” — Dennis Callahan , Federal Lawyer

“The subtitle of this encyclopedic study could well be ‘everything you might want to learn about the federal appointments process but did not know enough to ask.’ Gerhardt brings conceptual order to one of the more chaotic aspects of American national government and politics. . . . [A]rgues from a remarkably broad set of examples of [the] successful and unsuccessful nominations. . . . The book is eminently readable. . . . [R]equired reading for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the federal appointments process.” — David H. Rosenbloom , Journal of American History

“This book is, without a doubt, the best full-scale treatment of the presidential appointment process that has been done in recent times.” — Michael P. Riccards , Perspectives on Political Science

“With The Federal Appointments Process, Michael J. Gerhardt has provided the most comprehensive analysis of the politics of appointment and confirmation since the 1953 publication of the classic The Advice and Consent of the Senate. . . . Gerhardt has produced a serious and valuable book that nicely combines constitutional, historical, and political analysis to shed light on a subject that was in great need of such careful attention. In doing so, he captures the complexity of the process and the sources of our present discontents. He provides a careful analysis of the circumstances and conditions that gave rise to the current appointments process and the considerations of strategies that drive the actors in the process.” — Keith E. Whittington , Policy Review

“There is simply no other book available that comprehensively addresses the appointments process with the amount of care and historical detail that Gerhardt provides. Like his previous book on the impeachment process, this will be used for reference and as a jumping-off point for public debate triggered by important political controversies.” — John O. McGinnis, Northwestern University School of Law

“This book is destined to become the leading scholarly study of the American appointments process. It is comprehensive, eminently reasonable, and beautifully written. Gerhardt has assembled a rich collection of examples and he has persuasively interpreted their significance for American political practice. The Federal Appointments Process will be indispensible to political scientists, historians, and law professors who study the American separation of powers.” — Christopher Eisgruber, Princeton University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Michael J. Gerhardt is Professor of Law at the College of William and Mary School of Law. His other books include The Federal Impeachment Process: A Constitutional and Historical Analysis and Constitutional Theory: Arguments and Perspectives, each in their second edition.

Table of Contents Back to Top


Part One: The Origins, Structure, and Evolution of the Federal Appointments Process

Chapter 1: The Original Understanding of the Federal Appointments Process

Chapter 2: The Structure of the Federal Appointments Process

Chapter 3: Historical Changes and Patterns

Part Two: Evaluating the Roles of the Major Players in the Federal Appointments

Chapter 4: The President’s Role in the Federal Appointments Process

Chapter 5: The Advice and Consent of the Senate

Chapter 6: The Nominee’s Functions

Chapter 7: Public and Interest Group Participation in the Appointment Process

Chapter 8: The Impact of Media and Technology on the Federal Appointments Process

Part Three: Reforming the Federal Appointments Process

Chapter 9: The Need for Reform

Chapter 10: On the Future of Judicial Selection: Structure, Rules, and Norms



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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3199-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2528-4
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