Judicial Nominees By the Numbers:

A reader who follows judicial nominations quite closely sends along the follwing comment on my recent judicial nominations post:

In some respects, your numbers are technically correct, in that you have the number of confirmed divided by the number of nominations. But using nominations [as the CRS report did], instead of nominees, as the denominator in any calculation when evaluating the percentage of people appointed can lead to misleading calculations if you're not precise about the language you use. President Clinton, for the appellate courts, made 115 nominations, of which 65 were confirmed, hence the 56.5% number. But those 115 nominations were of 90 nominees (25 were renominations of people who had already been nominated), so the more accurate calculation for President Clinton, if you're talking about nominees, as you do in the last sentence quoted above, would be 65 confirmations of 90 nominees, or 72.2%. The comparable numbers, for the courts of appeals, for Presidents Carter, Reagan, and H.W. Bush, are 93.3%, 88.3%, and 79.2%, respectively. For Carter, Reagan, and H.W. Bush, the differences are smaller, in part because there were fewer returns by the Senate and thus fewer renominations.

For President George W. Bush, the Senate has 59 confirmed of 82 nominees, or 72.0%. The nomination-nominee numbers are markedly different for President Bush because there have been many more returns, and therefore many more renominations, in this administration than in previous administrations. Part of this comes from all pending nominations being returned in 2001 after the Senate control flipped from Republican to Democratic, part of it has come from long-running stretches of nomination, return, and renomination of the same person. Terrence Boyle was nominated to the Fourth Circuit six times by the current President.

I suspect your hand calculations for the current President may conflate nominations and nominees in the same statistic and, as a result, may confuse your readers. Without seeing how you got the 67% and 56% numbers, I can't be sure. By the metric of nominations, the Senate has confirmed 59 of 150 nominations to the courts of appeals, or 39.3%. But the 72.0% number looks at nominees, not nominations, and may better reflect the Senate's record on this issue, though, of course, it doesn't fully account for the fact that some individuals have had to go through multiple nominations before being confirmed by the Senate.

These statistics take as their unit of analysis the "President-person", so Roger Gregory and Helene White are 2 of the 25 unconfirmed Clinton nominees; Gregory is also one of the 59 confirmed W. Bush nominees, and Helene White is, for now, also one of the 23 unconfirmed W. Bush nominees.

The reader is correct that I was not sufficiently attentive to the nominee/nomination distinction, and I thank him for the note.