I was fortunate enough to attend the Marquette Law School Hallows Lecture earlier this week and hear Judge Carolyn Dineen King (5th Circuit, Carter appointee) lecture on federal judicial selection and its ramifications for judicial independence. In a nutshell (you can watch the speech or read the transcript here), Judge King argued that the politicization of the judicial selection process has lead to judges who feel, consciously or not, bound to make decisions in an ideological fashion and has resulted in some judges on some courts who engage in "clique voting." She argues that this is MORE problematic at the circuit court level because the heavy workload and the lack of accountability (to each other or to the public) provides the potential for one or two "hard-wired" judges to make a real impact on the law. She argues that this causes problems for the rule of law and the legitimacy of the court system.
I bring this to your attention both because it was an interesting speech and because I think Judge King's comments raise an interesting question: which comes first? Does politicization of appointments cause ideological voting, OR did ideological voting prompt the politicization of judicial appointments? Seems to cry out for some empirical research, no? (Hope to get at this soon, so any reactions/thoughts/data sources are welcomed!)