As we all learned from Schoolhouse Rock, the United States has three branches of government: the legislature, which makes the laws; the executive, which implements them; and the judiciary, which is charged with interpreting them. This third branch of government may not be elected, but is nonetheless deeply sensitive to politics. This is because the Founding Fathers lay the power to appoint federal judges with political actors, with the President sending forward nominations, and the Senate providing “advice and consent”.
As citizens, the calibre of judges serving in federal courthouses affects us each day. Federal judges are charged with being the gatekeepers of justice: ensuring that each case, no matter whether civil or criminal, is handled in a timely and just manner. Judges help ensure that disputes are settled appropriately, that meritless lawsuits are dismissed, and that prosecutions comply with the Constitution. If and when any of us are called into a federal courthouse, it is the judge who will ensure that justice is done.
The modern appointments process involves several layers of “vetting” of potential judicial nominees. Candidates are generally first evaluated by their home state Senators and their staff. Then, they are vetted again by the White House Counsel’s office and the Department of Justice. They are then examined by the FBI and the American Bar Association (ABA). Upon their nomination, their records are scrutinized by the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as interest groups on all sides of the political spectrum. At each level of review, the vetters seek to ensure that the candidate meets their personal and ideological criteria for appointment.
The Vetting Room is not a part of that process. We do not maintain a singular ideology, except for fealty to the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. Our goal is not to advance a particular agenda, but rather, to inform the general public about candidates for the federal bench. As nominations are made public by President Trump, we will review their records, including decisions they have authored, articles they have written, and cases they have litigated. We will summarize our findings on this forum, for any member of the public to review and evaluate. In doing so, we hope to de-mystify the judicial appointments process and to introduce the populace to their new judges. After all, given the impact of judges on our daily lives, it makes sense to have the public be a part of “vetting” them.