Steps Required for Becoming an Article III Federal Judge
An Article III judge is a judge or justice who exercises the judicial power in one of the courts established by Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Surprisingly, Article III judges (Supreme Court Justices, judges for the court of appeals, Judges for district courts, and judges working in the U.S. Court of International Trade) do not require being attorneys to become Article III judges. However, other types of federal judges like bankruptcy judges or federal magistrates must be attorneys in order to be appointed. Despite the lack of a precondition for being an attorney, an Article III judge who is not an attorney is unheard of. Usually, attorneys with a high standing within both the legal circle and the political circle of the President of U.S. are selected as Article III judges through a formal process.
The educational process for becoming a federal Article III judge
As mentioned above, formal educational qualifications are not a precondition for becoming a federal Article III judge. However, convention requires that a candidate should have attended law school, graduated with high grades, and have practiced in academia, the courts, law firms, or all of the above. Obviously, to be practicing in the courts, the formal requirements of becoming an attorney like passing a state bar examination is necessary. Usually, outstanding attorneys and subject experts with deep knowledge of the constitution have a better chance of becoming a federal Article III judge because Article III judges almost always need to deal with violations of the constitution. It is also useful to have served as a state or county judge for a reasonable period of time to be considered for an Article III judicial post.
The social process for becoming a federal Article III judge
Anyone considering serving as a federal Article III judge, the candidate will undergo a political process, and the candidate must be comfortable maneuvering the political waters. For example, if an aspiring attorney is unsuccessful in becoming a political heavyweight through networking and producing influential legal work, the attorney will most likely be passed over for the post of an Article III judge. Social networking and social interactions usually start early in the careers of those who aspire to become federal Article III judges, even as early as elementary school. Some may even say that social and political connections matter more than personal professional achievements because multitudes of candidates with identical or similar professional qualifications and achievements will never become federal Article III judges. Generally, these otherwise qualified candidates fail in social networking and therefore do not establish an influential and supportive social fronts.
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The political process in the appointment of a federal Article III judge
Though a federal Article III judge is in a position and designation for life, some might say the appointment relies heavily on political preferences. A federal Article III judge, on the surface, needs to be nominated by the President and then the nomination needs to be approved by the Senate. However, this means that for such nomination to occur, as well as for subsequent Senate approval, the candidate must be sufficiently politically active in his/her state or region and be able to garner political backing. It is difficult to envisage that the President would personally know all nominees, and therefore, the process of rigorous social and political referencing and verification takes place before anyone is considered as a federal Article III judge.
Besides being recommended by fellow politicians, the career and professional qualifications of potential federal Article III judges are closely scrutinized by the Department of Justice, which also takes into consideration other professionals before ratifying a candidate. Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee, examines all candidates separately before the Senate votes to approve the appointment of a federal Article III judge.