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The Judicial Tug of War: How Lawyers, Politicians, and Ideological Incentives Shape the American Judiciary, Adam Bonica and Maya Sen

Reviewed by Deborah Beim

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Political scientists have established ways in which the identity of a judge matters. Building on this foundation, Adam Bonica and Maya Sen's The Judicial Tug of War identifies the parties who select judges. They are lawyers and politicians, and they play tug-of-war with American courts.

In Bonica and Sen's book, lawyers are powerful, subject to no external regulation, and ideologically out of step with the American public. Lawyers use these advantages to maintain a monopoly on the provision of legal services and to pull policy leftward, and they do so by controlling American courts and judges. All American judges are lawyers, a fact the authors term “constitutional capture.” The American Bar Association—the professional association for American lawyers—is a central player in judicial selection. Finally, lawyers are entirely self-regulated, which both contributes to their power and results from it.

In the fight for American courts, Bonica and Sen characterize the lawyer's opponent as the politician, who decries “activist” judges, politicizes judicial nominations at the federal level, and brings ideology and elections to state judgeships. When politicians succeed, judges are more conservative than are lawyers writ large—and thus more ideologically aligned with the American public. They dimi

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