Assoc. Dean Kelley Discusses Impact of Future President on the Courts

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By: Melanie McDonald

Bill Kelley Notre Dame Law School Associate Dean William Kelley says that Senate support and judicial excellence are key factors for any president to consider in making appointments to the Supreme Court. His comments came as part of a panel discussion at the University of California, Berkeley, entitled “The Next President and the Courts.” Other panelists were University of Southern California law professor and legal commentator Susan Estrich and Jesse Choper, professor of law at UC Berkeley.

“The most important thing, I think, that any president has to take account of in making decisions about whom he or she is going to appoint to the Supreme Court is really excellence in the nominee. There is no substitute for absolute professional distinction in whomever the nominee is…It’s very difficult for forces aligned against the president…to successfully oppose a nominee whose professional distinction is really unquestionable.”

Kelley adds, “The role of the Senate in the judicial nomination and confirmation process…is crucially important. It wasn’t nothing that Republicans had 55 seats in the Senate when Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito went through the process.”

“We’re at a point where neither side—Republicans or Democrats—defers in any way to the president’s prerogative in judicial appointments…and we’ve seen an escalation in tactics opposing judges’ confirmations” because observers tend to perceive them as having more of a political role than used to be the case.

View the entire panel discussion here:

Contact: Associate Dean William Kelley, 574-631-8646,

For more information on Associate Dean Kelley, visit his faculty profile page.