Document Type


Publication Date



Studies of federal judicial appointments made before 1988 discovered significant partisan ties between judicial appointees and the governments appointing them. In 1988, in response to criticism of these “patronage appointments,” the Mulroney government introduced screening committees to the process. This article explores the impact of these committees. Using information gained from surveys of legal elites, we trace the minor and major political connections of federal judicial appointees from 1989 to 2003 in order to determine whether patronage has continued despite the reform to the process. We discover that political connections continued to play an important role in who was selected for a judicial appointment. However, these connections were not quite as common as those found before 1988, and the new process does appear to have prevented the politically motivated appointment of completely unqualified candidates. Interestingly, our findings also suggest that the impact of patronage varies by region and interacts with other, newer influences, in particular, concerns for group representation on the bench. The paper concludes by briefly discussing these results in the context of the relationship between judicial selection and politics with a comparative perspective.

Copyright Statement

This document was originally published by Cambridge University Press in Canadian Journal of Political Science. Copyright restrictions may apply. DOI: 10.1017/S0008423910000648