Editor's Note: This Essay is a response to Nancy Scherer, Diversifying the Federal Bench: Is Universal Legitimacy for the U.S. Justice System Possible? , 105 NW. U. L. Rev. 587 (2011).
Professor Nancy Scherer has offered a proposal to maximize diversity and legitimacy in the federal judiciary, a profound enigma that vexes judicial selection. This is important because the selection process involves the very core of law and politics: the President chooses nominees whom the Senate approves; once confirmed, these judges resolve controversial political issues. Scherer proceeds by first examining rationales for and against a court-appointment strategy that would enhance diversity. She observes that both champions and critics of diversity share the goal of increased judicial legitimacy, although they obviously differ on how best to achieve it. Scherer then suggests a new solution, predicated on this common ground, to resolve the disagreement—urging diversity advocates to articulate the concrete benefits that expanding diversity can afford majorities and to collect and synthesize empirical information confirming these advantages.
This Essay descriptively and critically reviews Scherer's article. Although her account provides valuable insights into increasing diversity and legitimacy, it understates the crucial influence of politics. Indeed, the growing politicization of the selection process, which implicates the debate over diversity, could seriously undermine judicial legitimacy. However, President Barack Obama's approach to judicial appointments elucidates the issue and could point the way forward. This Essay thus scrutinizes Obama's judicial selection effort, which confirms many ideas that Scherer espouses while showing how political deficiencies in the modern selection process erode diversity and legitimacy, and perhaps Scherer's provocative solution. This response ultimately discusses some promising measures beyond Scherer's recommendation that could enhance diversity and legitimacy in light of the threat that politicization poses.