Actors in the Judicial Process
The courts are part of a system of separate institutions that make up the US federal government. Congress controls the budget and generally the shape and form of the federal courts. In terms of staffing the judiciary, for the most part, the Senate, with its role of advice and consent, confirms all life-tenure judges. How do the interactions of Congress and the judiciary play out politically? In this section, Mark Miller examines this question by closely analyzing the role of the House and Senate judiciary committees and their dealings with Article III courts. Using elite interviews, he shows that the congressional committees have a variety of mechanisms to influence the decisions of the courts. His inquiry also uncovers the important role that lawyer-legislators play in this process, suggesting that changes in this particular demographic could have significant consequences for the relationship between the courts and Congress. Stone et al. zoom in on senatorial responses to charges of sexual misconduct during Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Using the Senate floor speeches during the Thomas and Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, these scholars explore and assess whether that behavior systematically changed during the intervening decades (1991 to 2018). They find that the more things change the more they stay the same, a somewhat surprising finding given the significant developments surrounding women’s rights, gender inclusivity, the increasing number of women in the Senate, and the #MeToo movement.