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The Institutionalization of Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

  • Paul M. Collins and Lori A. Ringhand

Abstract

This article uses an original database of confirmation hearing dialogue to examine how the Senate Judiciary Committee's role in Supreme Court confirmations has changed over time, with particular attention paid to the 1939–2010 era. During this period, several notable developments took place, including a rise in the number of hearing comments, increased attention to nominees’ views of judicial decisions, an expansion of the scope of issues addressed, and the equalization of questioning between majority and minority party senators. We demonstrate that these changes were shaped by both endogenous and exogenous factors to promote the legitimization of the Judiciary Committee's role in the confirmation process and to foster the instrumental goals of senators. This research contributes to our understanding of the development of political institutions, interbranch interactions, and how institutional change affects the behavior of legal and political actors.

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