During his presidency, Bill Clinton appointed almost half of the presently sitting federal appellate and district court judges. He, therefore, can justifiably claim that he has left a lasting imprint on the federal judiciary. During his 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton promised to choose intelligent, diligent, and independent judges who would increase balance, vigorously enforce fundamental constitutional rights, and possess measured judicial temperament. The initial achievement of the Clinton Administration in selecting members of the federal bench, who make it more diverse and who are exceptionally qualified, demonstrates that the President fulfilled these campaign pledges. President Clinton named unprecedented numbers and percentages of highly competent female and minority judges during his first two years in office. The record compiled is important, because diverse judges can improve their colleagues' understanding of complex questions that the federal courts must decide, might reduce bias in the justice process, and may increase the confidence of the American people in the federal judiciary.
After 1994, however, President Clinton encountered greater difficulty in appointing women and minorities, as well as in filling the perennial federal court vacancies, primarily because the Republican Party had captured a large majority in the U.S. Senate. The adversity he faced was particularly salient during 2000 when partisan politics, especially involving the presidential election, pervaded the confirmation process and when his power reached its nadir at the end of a two-term administration. Indeed, as late as May 2000, there were eighty openings on the appeals and district courts, a figure that constitutes nearly ten percent of the lower federal court judgeships that Congress has authorized. The approach that the President would take to choose more women and minorities and to name judges for the vacancies was, therefore, somewhat unclear. Now that the Clinton Administration has concluded its second term, the selection process during the final year merits scrutiny. This Essay undertakes that effort by emphasizing how the President attempted to appoint additional female and minority judges and to fill the empty seats.
Carl Tobias, Judicial Selection at the Clinton Administration's End, 19 Law & Ineq. 159 (2001)