Partisanship and Polarization in State Court Vacancies

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The Justice System Journal

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Backlogs and long delays in the confirmation of federal judicial nominees have become a common occurrence in Washington, leaving many federal benches understaffed and overworked. While this phenomenon has been well studied at the federal level examining political and institutional factors at play beyond senatorial courtesy, little is known if delay occurs in court systems of the individual American states, or how extensive the obstruction and the delay should it occur. We examine judicial appointments in states having the selection system of gubernatorial nomination and legislative confirmation. We focus on the duration of the judicial vacancies on state intermediate appellate courts and courts of last resort from 2000 to 2016 and explain the variation over time in the length of this process. We show that partisan division and increases in the polarization of state political parties work together to influence timely staffing of these critical institutions in the American states. Ultimately, these findings offer insight into the issues caused by political gridlock over judicial selection and offer practical institutional remedies to this problem.


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Taylor & Francis Online

Recommended Citation

Benjamin Melusky & Shenita Brazelton, Partisanship and Polarization in State Court Vacancies, 43 Just. Sys. J. 391 (2022).


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