Do American Bar Association Ratings Serve to Unfairly Exclude Blacks From the Federal Bench?

scalesThe American Bar Association issues a rating of “well qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified” for all nominations for U.S. federal judicial nominees. But a new study authored by Maya Sen, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Rochester, finds that women and minority candidates are less likely than White males to receive favorable ratings.

The study examined ratings of 1,770 district court nominations that were made between 1960 and 2012. The data showed that African Americans were 42 percentage points less likely to be highly rated than Whites with comparable educational and professional qualifications. Candidates who received the “not qualified” rating from the ABA are 35 percentage points less likely to be confirmed.

Dr. Sen writes that “the record number of minority and women nominees currently having their judicial candidacies derailed by this vetting process makes this a particularly pressing issue.”

The research, “How Judicial Qualification Ratings May Disadvantage Minority and Female Candidates,” was published in the Journal of Law and Courts and is available here.


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