Joiner, Joseph Perry
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Nomination opportunities for the Courts of Appeals in the United States routinely occur, yet the timing of nominations by the president is anything but routine. Between 1976 and 2004, 344 appeals court nominations were made by the president. Among these nomination opportunities, the president made nominations following vacancy in as as little as a few days and as much as a few years. Why does the president decide to delay some nominations and not others? I argue judicial policy emanating from these courts explains this behavior. More precisely, ideological drift during a vacancy can induce or discourage a nomination. I develop a formal model demonstrating how the president makes a tradeoff between ideological drift in the court and the constraints of confirmation in the Senate. Combining datasets on nominations to the appeals courts, presidential and senatorial ideal points, and judicial ideal points, I empirically test and find support for my theory. The timing of nominations to the federal Courts of Appeals appears to be determined by a complex mix of ideological constraints tempered by an ever shortening window in which to act.