How Are Federal Judges Appointed?

The President of the United States appoints federal judges to office with the approval of the U.S. Senate. This appointment includes Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges and district judges.

Generally, Presidents appoint judges who agree with their political views, or align with their political party values, but there are many other qualifications to be considered when selecting appointments. The Department of Justice assesses candidates' professional abilities, and the Senate Judiciary Committee initiates an independent investigation of the nominees.

There are nearly no formal qualifications for federal judges, but there are unwritten guidelines that are followed. For example, it is not a requirement that district judges, circuit judges or Supreme Court justices be lawyers, but all nominees are qualified attorneys. Most judges come from a background of private law, or they have served as judges in state courts.

Article III of the Constitution establishes that the U.S. Supreme Court, the Federal Court of Appeals, district courts and the U.S. Court of International Trade exercise "the judicial power of the United States." Bankruptcy judges and magistrate judges conduct business on a federal level, but do not exercise "the judicial power of the United States," and therefore are not typically appointed by the President.