Todd Zywicki noted this story on a new study purporting to show liberal bias in the ABA's evaluation of judicial nominees. This conclusion, in itself, is not particularly surprising, but I think it is worth noting that the study reportedly found quite a few interesting things, including that:
- Nominees with prior judicial experience tend to get higher ratings than those without such experience;
- Nominees of Democratic Presidents tend to get higher ratings than nominees of Republican Presidents;
- More conservative nominees tend to get lower ratings;
- White nominees tend to get higher ratings.
What about ideology and race? I don't think the study necessarily shows that the ABA is consciously biased against conservative nominees. An alternative explanation is that the ratings reflect the perspective of a somewhat-insular white liberal elite that has a tendency to give higher ratings to those who are most like them in background, experience and perspective. Insofar as the committee reflects a liberal white elite, its members may have difficulty identifying with those who have different racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as those with strongly divergent political views. Such unconscious bias could result in systematically higher ratings to nominees who reflect the experience and outlooks most common among the groups from which ABA evaluation committee members are drawn even if the evaluation committees do not explicitly consider the political views of individual nominees. If this explanation explains some of the alleged ideological bias in law school hiring, it seems to me it might explain the apparent ideological (and racial) bias of the ABA's vetting process as well.