The rule of thumb in judicial nominations is that a circuit court nominee with Supreme-Court-level credentials will have a harder time getting confirmed than a nominee without those credentials. Each side tries to limit the Supreme Court “farm team” of the other side. So if a nominee’s resume includes the kind of elite credentials that Supreme Court nominees often have, the scrutiny goes up. Given that, it seems important to note a recent circuit court confirmation of a nominee with Supreme-Court-like credentials that flew by the Senate (relatively speaking): Stephen Higginson, confirmed last week to the Fifth Circuit.
Higginson is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College, former Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal, a former law clerk to Justice White, and a law professor. He was nominated to the Fifth Circuit on May 9, 2011; he had a Judiciary Committee hearing June 8, and was reported out of the committee July 14th; and he was confirmed by a Senate vote of 88-0 on October 31st.